Pharmacological Tools to Study the Role of Astrocytes in Neural Network Functions

  • Fernando Peña-OrtegaEmail author
  • Ana Julia Rivera-Angulo
  • Jonathan Julio Lorea-Hernández
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 949)


Despite that astrocytes and microglia do not communicate by electrical impulses, they can efficiently communicate among them, with each other and with neurons, to participate in complex neural functions requiring broad cell-communication and long-lasting regulation of brain function. Glial cells express many receptors in common with neurons; secrete gliotransmitters as well as neurotrophic and neuroinflammatory factors, which allow them to modulate synaptic transmission and neural excitability. All these properties allow glial cells to influence the activity of neuronal networks. Thus, the incorporation of glial cell function into the understanding of nervous system dynamics will provide a more accurate view of brain function. Our current knowledge of glial cell biology is providing us with experimental tools to explore their participation in neural network modulation. In this chapter, we review some of the classical, as well as some recent, pharmacological tools developed for the study of astrocyte’s influence in neural function. We also provide some examples of the use of these pharmacological agents to understand the role of astrocytes in neural network function and dysfunction.


Astrocyte Microglia Aconitase Fluoroacetate Fluorocitrate Glutamine synthetase 

Abbreviations and Acronyms






1,2-Bis(2-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N′,N′-tetraacetic acid tetrakis(acetoxymethyl ester)


Blood–Brain Barrier


Cyclic adenosine monophosphate


Cystine–glutamate antiporter


Central Nervous System




Connexin 30


Connexin 43






Gamma-aminobutyric acid


Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein


Glutamate Aspartate Transporter


Glial Glutamate Transporter 1


Glutamine Synthetase


Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase


Lumbar segment 5


L-alpha-aminoadipic acid


Long-Term Potentiation


Monocarboxylate Transporter 1


Monocarboxylate Transporter 4








(2R)-2-Propyloctanoic acid


Protease-activated receptor 1


-log [H+]


S100 Ca2+-binding protein B


Tricaboxylic acid cycle


Tetanus Neurotoxin


Transgenic mice carrying the amyloid precursor protein with the Swedish mutation





We thank Dr. Dorothy Pless for editorial comments. Ana Rivera-Angulo and Jonathan-Julio Lorea-Hernández are graduate students at UNAM and received fellowships from CONACyT. This study was supported by CONACyT Grants 235789, 24688, 117 and 181323; and by DGAPA-UNAM Grant IN200715.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando Peña-Ortega
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ana Julia Rivera-Angulo
    • 1
  • Jonathan Julio Lorea-Hernández
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Neurobiología del Desarrollo y NeurofisiologíaInstituto de Neurobiología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoQuerétaroMexico

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