Functional Implications of Neurotransmitter Release by Glial Cells
Maurizio De Pittà
INRIA (Villeurbanne, France) and University of Chicago (US)
The recognition that astrocytes can simultaneously sense neuronal activity and release neuroactive agents (or "gliotransmitters") opened to the hypothesis of these cells being active players in the regulation of synaptic and neuronal signaling beyond mere trophism although the possible mechanisms and functional implications for such regulation are not understood. Inspired by recent experiments, I will present theoretical arguments supporting a role for astrocytic gliotransmission in processing and storage of information by the brain. Focusing on a simple model of gliotransmission at the singlesynapse level indeed allows several predictions on the potential regulation of short- and long-term plasticity in the presence of astrocytic signaling. Extension of this model to neuron-glia networks further suggests novel mechanisms for emergence of persistent activity. From single-synapse to network levels, the analysis of the astrocytic signaling that underlies these mechanisms, refines our notion of neuronal communication with profound implications in our understanding of brain function.