- C.G. Schipke
- B. Haas
- H. Kettenmann
- Cerebral Cortex
- Cereb Cortex 18 (10): 2450-2459
Sensory information from single whiskers in rodents projects to defined morphological units in the cortex, the barrels. We found that astrocytes selectively respond with an increase in the cytosolic Ca(2+) concentration to activation of layer 4 neurons, the input cells of the barrel columns. The neuronal Ca(2+) signal also spread across barrel column borders mainly in layer 2/3, but the glutamate-mediated astrocyte response stayed restricted to the barrel column. In contrast, when interfering with inhibitory pathways by blocking either purinergic, adenosine or gamma-aminobutyric acid(A) receptors, the stimulation activated a Ca(2+) response in a much larger astrocyte population no longer restricted to the borders of the barrel column. We also observed spontaneous and evoked Ca(2+) activity in the synaptic target cells of layer 4 neurons, the layer 2/3 pyramidal cells, but again, we never recorded Ca(2+) responses in astrocytes following activity in this neuronal population. Our data show that astrocytes can discriminate and selectively respond to the activity of a subpopulation of excitatory neurons within a given brain region. This selectivity in the astrocyte response describes a new level of complexity and integration in the reaction of astrocytes to neuronal activity.