Developmental Refining of Neuroglial Signaling?

Science  11 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6116, pp. 152-153
DOI: 10.1126/science.1233208

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When the term neuroglia (“nerve-putty”) was introduced by the German pathologist Rudolf Virchow in 1856 (1), it was like a stigma, distracting any reputable neuroscientist from doing research on these cells. More than a century later, intense research on glial cells was performed and culminated in the concept of the tripartite synapse, according to which astrocytes (a main type of glia) respond to neuronal activity by increasing their internal calcium (Ca) concentration, which triggers the release of chemical transmitters from glia themselves and, in turn, causes feedback regulation of neuronal activity and synaptic strength (2). Although this concept became widely accepted among neuroscientists, it has now been challenged. On page 197 in this issue, Sun et al. (3) find that neuronglia signaling in the adult brain may occur in a manner fundamentally distinct from that exhibited during development.