Characterization of astrocyte Ca2+ dynamics has been a topic of considerable emphasis for more than a decade. Only recently, however, has the physiological significance of astrocyte Ca2+ signaling started to become clear. Several studies have shown that astrocyte Ca2+ levels become elevated in response to neuronal input and that this, in turn, influences synaptic activity. A novel function of astrocyte Ca2+ signaling has been described by Zonta et al., whereby neuron-induced astrocyte Ca2+ elevations can lead to secretion of vasodilatory substances from perivascular astrocyte endfeet, resulting in improved local blood flow. This finding represents a breakthrough in our knowledge both of astrocyte function and of the mechanism of activity-dependent cerebral blood flow regulation.
Comment on: Nat Neurosci. 2003 Jan;6(1):43-50. (PMID: 12469126)