Poster Info : Neurons and Their Properties


Astrocytes are the most abundant glial cells in the CNS. They arise from neuroectoderm and are intimately associated with neural processes, synapses, vasculature, and the pial-glial membrane investing the CNS. Astrocytes in gray matter are called protoplasmic astrocytes, and in white matter they are called fibrous astrocytes. The somas vary in diameter from a few μm to 10 or more μm. Astrocytes are arrayed in nonoverlapping 3D polyhedral domains of 100-200 μm across (up to 400 μm in hominids). Structurally, astrocytic processes interdigitate, forming a syncytium to protect synapses (as close as 1μm to these structures). 

Astrocytic endfeet associate with vascular endothelial cells and associated smooth muscle cells. Astrocyti processes invest the entire pial membrane from the inside. Physiologically, astrocytic processes affect ion balance (sequester K+), transport water via aquaporin 4 channels, uptake and recycle glutamate and GABA, provide metabolic support to neurons, and can become reactive after CNS injury and lay down glial scar tissue. Astrocytes also can releasegrowth factors and bioactive molecules (termed gliotransmitters) such as glutamate, ATP, and adenosine. In development, specialized astrocytes, called radial glia, provide a scaffold for orderly neural migrations in the CNS.

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