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Neuronal, glial and synaptic remodeling in the adult hypothalamus: functional consequences and role of cell surface and extracellular matrix adhesion molecules

Neurochemistry International
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuint.2003.11.003
  • Hypothalamo-Neurohypophysial System
  • Oxytocinergic Neurons
  • Neuronal And Glial Plasticity
  • Glutamate
  • Cell Adhesion Glycoproteins
  • Biology
  • Mathematics


Abstract The adult hypothalamo-neurohypophysial system (HNS) undergoes activity-dependent morphological plasticity which modifies astrocytic coverage of its oxytocinergic neurons and their synaptic inputs. Thus, during physiological conditions that enhance central and peripheral release of oxytocin (OT), adjacent somata and dendrites of OT neurons become extensively juxtaposed, without intervening astrocytic processes and receive an increased number of synapses. The morphological changes occur within a few hours and are reversible with termination of stimulation. The reduced astrocytic coverage has direct functional consequences since it modifies extracellular ionic homeostasis, synaptic transmission, and the size and geometry of the extracellular space. It also contributes indirectly to neuronal function by permitting formation of synapses on neuronal surfaces freed of astrocytic processes. Overall, such remodeling is expected to potentiate activated neuronal firing, especially in clusters of tightly packed neurons, an anatomical arrangement characterizing OT neurons. This plasticity connotes dynamic cell interactions that must bring into play cell surface and extracellular matrix adhesive proteins like those intervening in developing neuronal systems undergoing neuronal–glial and synaptogenic transformations. It is worth noting, therefore, that adult HNS neurons and glia continue to express such molecules, including polysialic acid (PSA)-enriched neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM) and the glycoprotein, tenascin-C. PSA is a large, complex sugar on the extracellular domain of NCAM considered a negative regulator of adhesion; it occurs in large amounts on the surfaces of HNS neurons and astrocytes. Tenascin-C, on the other hand, possesses adhesive and repulsive properties; it is secreted by HNS astrocytes and occurs in extracellular spaces and on cell surfaces after interaction with appropriate ligands. These molecules have been considered permissive factors for morphological plasticity. However, because of their localization and inherent properties, they may also serve to modulate the extracellular environment and in consequence, synaptic and volume transmission in a system in which the extracellular compartment is constantly being modified.

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