Astrocytic control of synaptic function

Thomas Papouin, Jaclyn Dunphy, Michaela Tolman, Jeannine C. Foley, Philip G. Haydon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Astrocytes intimately interact with synapses, both morphologically and, as evidenced in the past 20 years, at the functional level. Ultrathin astrocytic processes contact and sometimes enwrap the synaptic elements, sense synaptic transmission and shape or alter the synaptic signal by releasing signalling molecules. Yet, the consequences of such interactions in terms of information processing in the brain remain very elusive. This is largely due to two major constraints: (i) the exquisitely complex, dynamic and ultrathin nature of distal astrocytic processes that renders their investigation highly challenging and (ii) our lack of understanding of how information is encoded by local and global fluctuations of intracellular calcium concentrations in astrocytes. Here, we will review the existing anatomical and functional evidence of local interactions between astrocytes and synapses, and how it underlies a role for astrocytes in the computation of synaptic information.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1715
StatePublished - Mar 5 2017


  • Gliotransmission
  • Neuron–glia interactions
  • Sleep
  • Synaptic homeostasis
  • Synaptic islands
  • Tripartite synapse


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