Redefining the concept of reactive astrocytes

Abstract of the study published by Wilhelmsson et al., in PNAS.

Reactive astrocytes in neurotrauma, stroke, or neurodegeneration are thought to undergo cellular hypertrophy, based on their morphological appearance revealed by immunohistochemical detection of glial fibrillary acidic protein, vimentin, or nestin, all of them forming intermediate filaments, a part of the cytoskeleton. Here, we used a recently established dye-filling method to reveal the full three-dimensional shape of astrocytes assessing the morphology of reactive astrocytes in two neurotrauma models. Both in the denervated hippocampal region and the lesioned cerebral cortex, reactive astrocytes increased the thickness of their main cellular processes but did not extend to occupy a greater volume of tissue than nonreactive astrocytes. Despite this hypertrophy of glial fibrillary acidic protein-containing cellular processes, interdigitation between adjacent hippocampal astrocytes remained minimal. This work helps to redefine the century-old concept of hypertrophy of reactive astrocytes.

Full paper here