Mechanisms of gliotransmitters release

Regulated secretion is an essential process in all eukaryotic cells. Cells from multicellular organisms, by contrast with unicellular organisms like yeast, have acquired the ability to store some substances critical for intercellular communication systems. In the brain the regulated exocytosis forms the basis for the ultra fast intercellular signalling processes between neurons. In contrast to neurons, other cells in the brain that are not considered specialized for secretion are widely believed to be incompetent for regulated exocytosis. Recently some similarities have emerged between astrocytes and neurosecretory cells; both of which contain synaptic like microvesicles (SLMVs) together with organelles characterized by markers of dense core granules (DCGs). These observations have likewise shown that astrocytes are very complex secretory cells with different types of organelle and chemical transmitters that vary between brain regions. Until now, our group has focused on astrocytic glutamate release in brain regions where neurotransmission is likewise mainly glutamatergic. We now intend to explore astrocytes in other brain regions, to discover whether they are able to store and release other transmitters.

The role of gliotransmitters remains uncertain. To establish their importance in brain function, it will be necessary to understand in more detail the mechanisms of their liberation. Our group is therefore studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for gliotransmitter release and developing different experimental models to understand how it is affected in pathological conditions and to clarify the consequences for brain function.

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