Astroglial cells are truly multipotent and serve a surprizingly large and diverse variety of functions. These functions are absolutely vital for brain development, physiology and pathology.
Conceptually astroglial functions can be divided into several important groups:
Functions of astroglia
• Regulation of neuro and gliogenesis - astroglia are stem elements of the CNS.
• Neuronal path finding.
• Regulation of synaptogenesis.
• Astroglia form the scaffold of the nervous system, thus defining the functional architecture of the brain and spinal cord.
• Astrocytes form a continuous syncytium and integrate other neural cells into this syncytium.
3. Vascular - formation and regulation of the blood-brain barrier
• Formation of the glial-vascular interface.
• Regulation of cerebral microcirculation.
• Providing energy substrates for neurones.
• Collecting neuronal waste.
• Regulation of extracellular ion concentrations; in particular sequestration and redistribution of K+ following fluctuations associated with neuronal activity.
• Regulation of extracellular pH.
Glial Neurobiology: A Textbook Alexei Verkhratsky and Arthur Butt © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd ISBN 978-0-470-01564-3 (HB); 978-0-470-51740-6 (PB)
• Removal of neurotransmitters from the extracellular space.
• Brain water homeostasis.
• Modulation of synaptic transmission.
• Release of neurotransmitters.
• Long-range signalling within the glial syncytium.
• Integration of neuronal-glial networks.
These functions are explained in more detail below.
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