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Phagocytic response of astrocytes to damaged neighboring cells.

  • Author(s): Wakida, Nicole M;
  • Cruz, Gladys Mae S;
  • Ro, Clarissa C;
  • Moncada, Emmanuel G;
  • Khatibzadeh, Nima;
  • Flanagan, Lisa A;
  • Berns, Michael W
  • Editor(s): Deli, Mária A
  • et al.

This study aims to understand the phagocytic response of astrocytes to the injury of neurons or other astrocytes at the single cell level. Laser nanosurgery was used to damage individual cells in both primary mouse cortical astrocytes and an established astrocyte cell line. In both cases, the release of material/substances from laser-irradiated astrocytes or neurons induced a phagocytic response in near-by astrocytes. Propidium iodide stained DNA originating from irradiated cells was visible in vesicles of neighboring cells, confirming phagocytosis of material from damaged cortical cells. In the presence of an intracellular pH indicator dye, newly formed vesicles correspond to acidic pH fluorescence, thus suggesting lysosome bound degradation of cellular debris. Cells with shared membrane connections prior to laser damage had a significantly higher frequency of induced phagocytosis compared to isolated cells with no shared membrane. The increase in phagocytic response of cells with a shared membrane occurred regardless of the extent of shared membrane (a thin filopodial connection vs. a cell cluster with significant shared membrane). In addition to the presence (or lack) of a membrane connection, variation in phagocytic ability was also observed with differences in injury location within the cell and distance separating isolated astrocytes. These results demonstrate the ability of an astrocyte to respond to the damage of a single cell, be it another astrocyte, or a neuron. This single-cell level of analysis results in a better understanding of the role of astrocytes to maintain homeostasis in the CNS, particularly in the sensing and removal of debris in damaged or pathologic nervous tissue.

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