Signal Effectors

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Science  26 Feb 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5969, pp. 1061
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5969.1061-c

Neurons convey information in part by transmission of small molecules such as γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) across gaps termed synapses. The handshake between pre- and postsynaptic neurons that allows synapses to develop in the central nervous system is bolstered by surrounding astrocytes. Studying hippocampal neurons and astrocytes from embryonic rats, Hughes et al. show that the signals used by astrocytes to promote GABAergic (inhibitory) neuron development are different than those already shown to promote glutamatergic (excitatory) synapses. These signals encourage the growth of axons, but not dendrites, of the GABAergic neurons and seem not to affect the neurite length of glutamatergic neurons. Both the number and the density of synapses in GABAergic neurons are pumped up by signals from astrocytes. Although some potential mediating factors, such as the thrombospondins, have been excluded in this work, the relevant signaling proteins secreted by these astrocytes remain at the moment incognito.

Mol. Cell. Neurosci. 43, 136 (2010).

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