NIH Research Festival
Astrocytes, the most plentiful and structurally complex glial cells of the central nervous system, are thought to play an important role in controlling the activities of neuronal networks, including respiratory rhythm-generating circuits of the preBotzinger complex (preBotC) located in the ventrolateral medulla of the brainstem. However, the structural properties of astrocytes in various brainstem regions are not known. In this study astrocytes in the preBotC, an intermediate reticular formation (IRF) region with respiratory-related function, and a region of the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) in adult rats were reconstructed, after which their morphological features were compared. Morphological analysis revealed that preBotC astrocytes are structurally more complex than those within the functionally distinct neighboring IRF region, or the NTS, which is located in the dorsal region of the medulla oblongata. Structural analyses of the astrocyte-associated microvasculature indicated no significant regional differences in vascular properties. We hypothesize that morphological complexity of preBotC astrocytes reflects their functional role in providing structural/metabolic support and control of the neuronal network essential for breathing, as well as constraints imposed by arrangements of associated neurons and/or other local structural features of the brainstem parenchyma.
Scientific Focus Area: Systems Biology
This page was last updated on Friday, March 26, 2021