Astrocytes and neurons: deciphering metabolic and signaling interactions.
Astrocytes play a crucial role in the brain by establishing connections between neurons and blood vessels. This strategic positioning allows them to effectively control the extracellular environment and coordinate brain energy metabolism. In concrete terms, neuronal activity is detected by astrocytes and translated into both metabolic and signaling responses. Typically, astrocytes mobilize their metabolism to release sizable amounts of lactate into the extracellular space. Jean-Yves Chatton and his team found that this metabolic response of astrocytes not only serves the purpose of delivering energy equivalents to neurons, but also of modulating their activity. They investigate these spatiotemporal interactions genetically modified mice and in human brain tissue, using mainly one- and two-photon imaging, combined with electrophysiology and optogenetics. Their research goals are to probe the outcome of these complex interactions on memory performance and motor behavior in healthy and disease states, such as Alzheimer’s disease.