Astrocytes and microglia support well-being and well-function of the brain through diverse functions in both intact and injured brain. For example, astrocytes maintain homeostasis of microenvironment of the brain through up-taking ions and neurotransmitters, and provide growth factors and metabolites for neurons, etc. Microglia keep surveying surroundings, and remove abnormal synapses or respond to injury by isolating injury sites and expressing inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, their loss and/or functional alteration may be directly linked to brain diseases. Since Parkinson's disease (PD)-related genes are expressed in astrocytes and microglia, mutations of these genes may alter the functions of these cells, thereby contributing to disease onset and progression. Here, we review the roles of astrocytes and microglia in intact and injured brain, and discuss how PD genes regulate their functions.
Recently, we reported that astrocytes in the trigeminal caudal nucleus (Vc) of the brain stem express a purinergic receptor P2X3, which is involved in the craniofacial pathologic pain. Although we observed protein expression of P2X3 receptors (P2X3 Rs) in the astrocyte of the Vc, it is still unclear that astrocyte has functional P2X3Rs in Vc. To address this issue, we recorded asrtocytic P2X3Rs by using whole cell voltage-clamp recording in the Vc of the GFAP-GFP mice, which was used as a guide to astrocytes with green fluorescence. While measuring voltage ramp-induced astrocytic membrane current, we found the amplitude of the current was increased when we applied P2-purinoreceptor agonist, α,β-meATP. This increase was blocked by co-application of A317491, P2X3R antagonist. These results demonstrate that astrocytes in the Vc express functional P2X3Rs, which might be critical in craniofacial pathologic pain.
The hippocampus and olfactory bulb incorporate new neurons migrating from neurogenic regions in the brain. Hippocampal atrophy is evident in numerous neurodegenerative disorders, and altered hippocampal neurogenesis is an early pathological event in Alzheimer's disease. We hypothesized that hippocampal neurogenesis is affected by olfactory stimuli through the neural pathway of olfaction-related memory. In this study, we exposed mice to novel pleasant odors for three weeks and then assessed the number of neurons, non-neuronal cells (mainly glia) and proliferating cells in the hippocampus and olfactory bulb, using the isotropic fractionator method. We found that the odor enrichment significantly increased the neuronal cell numbers in the hippocampus, and promoted cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the olfactory bulb. In contrast, the glial cell numbers remained unchanged in both of the regions. Our results suggest that exposure to novel odor stimuli promotes hippocampal neurogenesis and support the idea that enriched environments may delay the onset or slow down the progression of neurodegenerative disorders.
A recent study reveals that missense mutations of
Aucubin is a small compound naturally found in traditional medicinal herbs with primarily anti-inflammatory and protective effects. In the nervous system, aucubin is reported to be neuroprotective by enhancing neuronal survival and inhibiting apoptotic cell death in cultures and disease models. Our previous data, however, suggest that aucubin facilitates neurite elongation in cultured hippocampal neurons and axonal regrowth in regenerating sciatic nerves. Here, we investigated whether aucubin facilitates the differentiation of neural precursor cells (NPCs) into specific types of neurons. In NPCs cultured primarily from the rat embryonic hippocampus, aucubin significantly elevated the number of GAD65/67 immunoreactive cells and the expression of GAD65/67 proteins was upregulated dramatically by more than three-fold at relatively low concentrations of aucubin (0.01 µM to 10 µM). The expression of both NeuN and vGluT1 of NPCs, the markers for neurons and glutamatergic cells, respectively, and the number of vGluT1 immunoreactive cells also increased with higher concentrations of aucubin (1 µM and 10 µM), but the ratio of the increases was largely lower than GAD expression and GAD immunoreactive cells. The GABAergic differentiation of pax6-expressing late NPCs into GABA-producing cells was further supported in cortical NPCs primarily cultured from transgenic mouse brains, which express recombinant GFP under the control of pax6 promoter. The results suggest that aucubin can be developed as a therapeutic candidate for neurodegenerative disorders caused by the loss of inhibitory GABAergic neurons.
µ-opioid receptor (MOR) is a class of opioid receptors with a high affinity for enkephalins and beta-endorphin. In hippocampus, activation of MOR is known to enhance the neuronal excitability of pyramidal neurons, which has been mainly attributed to a disinhibition of pyramidal neurons via activating Gαi subunit to suppress the presynaptic release of GABA in hippocampal interneurons. In contrast, the potential role of MOR in hippocampal astrocytes, the most abundant cell type in the brain, has remained unexplored. Here, we determine the cellular and subcellular distribution of MOR in different cell types of the hippocampus by utilizing MOR-mCherry mice and two different antibodies against MOR. Consistent with previous findings, we demonstrate that MOR expression in the CA1 pyramidal layer is co-localized with axon terminals from GABAergic inhibitory neurons but not with soma of pyramidal neurons. More importantly, we demonstrate that MOR is highly expressed in CA1 hippocampal astrocytes. The ultrastructural analysis further demonstrates that the astrocytic MOR is localized in soma and processes, but not in microdomains near synapses. Lastly, we demonstrate that astrocytes in ventral tegmental area and nucleus accumbens also express MOR. Our results provide the unprecedented evidence for the presence of MOR in astrocytes, implicating potential roles of astrocytic MOR in addictive behaviors.
Rice is the most commonly consumed grain in the world. Black rice has been suggested to contain various bioactive compounds including anthocyanin antioxidants. There is currently little information about the nutritional benefits of black rice on brain pathology. Here, we investigated the effects of black rice (