Gap junction-mediated calcium waves define communication networks among murine postnatal neural progenitor cells

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In the postnatal neurogenic niche, two populations of astrocyte-like cells (B cells) persist, one acting as neural progenitor cells (NPCs, B1 cells) and one forming a structural boundary between the neurogenic niche and the striatum (B2 cells, niche astrocytes). Despite being viewed as two distinct entities, we found that B1 and B2 cells express the gap junction protein connexin 43 and display functional coupling involving 50–60 cells. Using neonatal electroporation to label slowly cycling radial glia-derived B1 cells, which send a basal process onto blood vessels, we further confirmed dye coupling between NPCs. To assess the functionality of the coupling, we used calcium imaging in a preparation preserving the three-dimensional architecture of the subventricular zone. Intercellular calcium waves were observed among B cells. These waves travelled bidirectionally between B1 and B2 cells and propagated on blood vessels. Inter-B-cell calcium waves were absent in the presence of a gap junction blocker but persisted with purinergic receptor blockers. These findings show that privileged microdomains of communication networks exist among NPCs and niche astrocytes. Such functional coupling between these two cell types suggests that niche astrocytes do not merely have a structural role, but may play an active role in shaping the behavior of NPCs.

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