Direct vascular contact is a hallmark of cerebral astrocytes

Astrocytes establish extensive networks via gap junctions that allow each astrocyte to connect indirectly to the vasculature. However, the proportion of astrocytes directly associated with blood vessels is unknown. Here, we quantify structural contacts of cortical astrocytes with the vasculature in vivo. We show that all cortical astrocytes are connected to at least one blood vessel. Moreover, astrocytes contact more vessels in deeper cortical layers where vessel density is known to be higher. Further examination of different brain regions reveals that only the hippocampus, which has the lowest vessel density of all investigated brain regions, harbors single astrocytes with no apparent vascular connection. In summary, we show that almost all gray matter astrocytes have direct contact to the vasculature. In addition to the glial network, a direct vascular access may represent a complementary pathway for metabolite uptake and distribution.


Dr. Ladina Hösli
Marc Zuend
Gustav Bredell
Henri Zanker
Carlos Eduardo Porto de Oliveira
Prof. Dr. Aiman Saab
Prof. Dr. Bruno Weber

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