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Heterogeneity of astrocytes: Electrophysiological properties of juxtavascular astrocytes before and after brain injury.

Glia. 2020;10.1002/glia.23900. doi:10.1002/glia.23900 [published online ahead of print, 2020 Aug 18]

Authors/Editors: Götz S, Bribian A, López-Mascaraque L, Götz M, Grothe B, Kunz L.
Publication Date: 2020


Astrocyte heterogeneity is increasingly recognized, but still little is known about juxtavascular astrocytes with their somata directly adjacent to blood vessels, despite their importance after brain injury. As juxtavascular astrocytes originate from common progenitor cells, that is, have a clonal origin, they may intrinsically differ from other, non‐juxtavascular astrocytes. To explore this, we examined the electrophysiological properties of these groups of astrocytes and the underlying ion channels. Using brain slices of BAC Aldh1l1‐eGFP transgenic mice with astrocytes labeled by GFP expression, we compared juxtavascular and non‐juxtavascular astrocytes in the somatosensory cortex by means of whole‐cell patch‐clamp recordings and immunohistochemical staining. Prior to injury, juxta‐ and non‐juxtavascular astrocytes exhibit comparable electrophysiological properties with characteristic mostly passive conductance and a typical negative resting membrane potential. Immunohistochemical analysis of K+ channels showed that all astrocytes were Kir4.1+, but revealed an intriguing difference for Kv4.3. The expression of Kv4.3 in sibling astrocytes (non‐juxtavascular, juxtavascular and pial) was dependent on their ontogenetic origin with lowest levels in juxtavascular astrocytes located in upper cortical layers. After traumatic brain injury (TBI), we found profound changes in the electrophysiological type of astrocytes with a predominance of non‐passive properties and this pattern was significantly enriched in juxtavascular astrocytes. This was accompanied by pronounced down‐regulation of Kir4.1 in proliferating astrocytes, which was significantly more in juxtavascular compared to non‐juxtavascular astrocytes. Taken together, TBI induces profound differences in electrophysiological properties between juxtavascular and non‐juxtavascular astrocytes that might be related to the preponderance of juxtavascular astrocyte proliferation.

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