Limited Intravascular Coupling in the Rodent Brainstem and Retina Supports a Role for Glia in Regional Blood Flow

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Regional synaptic activity induces local increases in perfusion that are coupled to upstream vasodilation and improved blood flow. In the cerebral circulation, it has been proposed that astrocytes mediate the link between the initiating stimulus and local vasodilation through propagated intracellular calcium waves. In the systemic circulation the mechanism by which local vasodilation triggers upstream alterations in blood flow involves electrotonic propagation of hyperpolarization via endothelial gap junctions, although less is known concerning the cerebral circulation. The present study aimed to investigate the extent of coupling in microvessels of the rodent brainstem and retina and the subtypes of intracellular calcium stores that might mediate astrocytic signaling. Within the brainstem, connexins (Cxs) 37 and 40 were restricted to the endothelium of pial vessels and larger penetrating arterioles, whereas astrocytic Cxs30 and 43 were found closely associated with pre- and postsynaptic neurons and nearby microvessels. Within the rat retina, Cxs37 and 40 were expressed in large radiating arterioles, but were not found in smaller vessels on the retinal surface or in the deeper retinal layers. These Cxs were absent from all retinal vessels in mice. Astrocytes, expressing Cxs30 and 43 in the rat, but only Cx43 in the mouse, were found closely associated with superficial, but not deeper blood vessels. Inositol-trisphosphate receptors (IP3R) 1 and 2 were expressed within brainstem astrocytes, whereas IP3R1 and 3 were expressed within retinal astrocytes. Limited intravascular coupling and the proximity of astrocytic networks to blood vessels supports a role for glia in activity-dependent alterations in central blood flow. J. Comp. Neurol. 511:773–787, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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