Considerable attention has recently been paid to astrocyte functions, which are briefly summarized. A large amount of data is available about adrenoceptor expression and function in astrocytes, some of it dating back to the 1970s and some of it very recent. This material is reviewed in the present paper. The brain is innervated by noradrenergic fibers extending from locus coeruleus in the brain stem, which in turn is connected to a network of adrenergic and noradrenergic nuclei in the medulla and pons, contributing to the control of (nor)adrenergic, serotonergic, dopaminergic and cholinergic function, both in the central nervous system (CNS) and in the periphery. In the CNS astrocytes constitute a major target for noradrenergic innervation, which regulates morphological plasticity, energy metabolism, membrane transport, gap junction permeability and immunological responses in these cells. Noradrenergic effects on astrocytes are essential during consolidation of episodal, long-term memory, which is reinforced by β-adrenergic activation. Glycogenolysis and synthesis of glutamate and glutamine from glucose, both of which are metabolic processes restricted to astrocytes, occurs at several time-specific stages during the consolidation. Astrocytic abnormalities are almost certainly important in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis and in all probability contribute essentially to inflammation and malfunction in Alzheimers disease and to mood disturbances in affective disorders. Noradrenergic function in astrocytes is severely disturbed by chronic exposure to cocaine, which also changes astrocyte morphology. Development of drugs modifying noradrenergic receptor activity and / or down-stream signaling is advocated for treatment of several neurological / psychiatric disorders and for neuroprotection. Astrocytic preparations are suggested for study of mechanism(s) of action of antidepressant drugs and pathophysiology of mood disorders.
Keywords: alzheimer disease, astrocytes, cocaine, memory, mood disorders, multiple sclerosis, neuroprotection, noradrenergic receptors
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