New findings

Department of Neuropharmacology, Scripps Research Institute.

The central nervous system responds to diverse neurologic injuries with a vigorous activation of astrocytes. While this phenomenon is found in many different species, its function is obscure.

Understanding the molecular profile characteristic of reactive astrocytes should help define their function. The purpose of this review is to provide a summary of molecules whose levels of expression differentiate activated from resting astrocytes and to use the molecular profile of reactive astrocytes as the basis for speculations on the functions of these cells.

At present, reactive astrocytosis is defined primarily as an increase in the number and size of cells expressing glial fibrillary acidic protein. In vivo, this increase in glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive cells reflects predominantly phenotypic changes of resident astroglia rather than migration or proliferation of such cells. Upon activation, astrocytes upmodulate the expression of a large number of molecules. From this molecular profile it becomes apparent that reactive astrocytes may benefit the injured nervous system by participating in diverse biological processes.

For example, up-take regulation of proteases and protease inhibitors could help remodel the extracellular matrix, regulate the concentration of different proteins in the neuropil and clear up debris from degenerating cells. Cytokines are key mediators of immunity and inflammation and could play a critical role in the regulation of the blood-central nervous system interface.

Eddleston M, Mucke L.
Department of Neuropharmacology, Scripps Research Institute.


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