Purinergic signaling in the cerebellum: Bergmann glial cells express functional ionotropic P2X7 receptors

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Abstract

Astrocytes constitute active networks of intercommunicating cells that support the metabolism and the development of neurons and affect synaptic functions via multiple pathways. ATP is one of the major neurotransmitters mediating signaling between neurons and astrocytes. Potentially acting through both purinergic metabotropic P2Y receptors (P2YRs) and ionotropic P2X receptors (P2XRs), up until now ATP has only been shown to activate P2YRs in Bergmann cells, the radial glia of the cerebellar cortex that envelopes Purkinje cell afferent synapses. In this study, using multiple experimental approaches in acute cerebellar slices we demonstrate the existence of functional P2XRs on Bergmann cells. In particular, we show here that Bergmann cells express uniquely P2X7R subtypes: (i) immunohistochemical analysis revealed the presence of P2X7Rs on Bergmann cell processes, (ii) in whole cell recordings P2XR pharmacological agonists induced depolarizing currents that were blocked by specific antagonists of P2X7Rs, and could not be elicited in slices from P2X7R-deficient mice and finally, (iii) calcium imaging experiments revealed two distinct calcium signals triggered by application of exogenous ATP: a transient signal deriving from release of calcium from intracellular stores, and a persistent one following activation of P2X7Rs. Our data thus reveal a new pathway by which extracellular ATP may affect glial cell function, thus broadening our knowledge on purinergic signaling in the cerebellum. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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