Bidirectional regulation by “star forces”: Ionotropic astrocyte's optical stimulation suppresses synaptic plasticity, metabotropic one strikes back

Alexander Maltsev, Matvey Roshchin, Ilya Bezprozvanny, Ivan Smirnov, Olga Vlasova, Pavel Balaban, Anastasia Borodinova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of astrocytes in modulating synaptic plasticity is an important question that until recently was not addressed due to limitations of previously existing technology. In the present study, we took an advantage of optogenetics to specifically activate astrocytes in hippocampal slices in order to study effects on synaptic function. Using the AAV-based delivery strategy, we expressed the ionotropic channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) or the metabotropic Gq-coupled Opto-a1AR opsins specifically in hippocampal astrocytes to compare different modalities of astrocyte activation. In electrophysiological experiments, we observed a depression of basal field excitatory postsynaptic potentials (fEPSPs) in the CA1 hippocampal layer following light stimulation of astrocytic ChR2. The ChR2-mediated depression increased under simultaneous light and electrical theta-burst stimulation (TBS). Application of the type 2 purinergic receptor antagonist suramin prevented depression of basal synaptic transmission, and switched the ChR2-dependent depression into potentiation. The GABAB receptor antagonist, phaclofen, did not prevent the depression of basal fEPSPs, but switched the ChR2-dependent depression into potentiation comparable to the values for TBS in control slices. In contrast, light stimulation of Opto-a1AR expressed in astrocytes led to an increase in basal fEPSPs, as well as a potentiation of synaptic responses to TBS significantly. A specific blocker of the Gq protein downstream target, the phospholipase C, U73122, completely prevented the effects of Opto-a1AR stimulation on basal fEPSPs or Opto + TBS responses. To understand molecular basis for the observed effects, we performed an analysis of gene expression in these slices using quantitative PCR approach. We observed a significant upregulation of “immediate-early” gene expression in hippocampal slices after light activation of Opto-a1AR-expressing astrocytes alone (cRel, Arc, Fos, JunB, and Egr1) or paired with TBS (cRel, Fos, and Egr1). Activation of ChR2-expressing hippocampal astrocytes was insufficient to affect expression of these genes in our experimental conditions. Thus, we concluded that optostimulation of astrocytes with ChR2 and Opto-a1AR optogenetic tools enables bidirectional modulation of synaptic plasticity and gene expression in hippocampus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-36
Number of pages19
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • astrocytes
  • field excitatory postsynaptic potentials
  • gene expression
  • hippocampus
  • immediate early genes
  • optogenetics
  • synaptic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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