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Astrocyte-Neuron Calcium Signaling

The interaction between two important components, astrocytes and neurons, affects synaptic transmission and regulates various physiological processes. A number of studies have explored astrocyte calcium signaling and its and neuronal calcium signaling's critical role in neurological disorders.

Creative Biolabs introduces information related to astrocyte-neuronal calcium signaling and explores potential therapeutic targets in this signaling pathway to address a range of neurological challenges. We apply our advanced platforms to a wide range of neuroscience research to provide novel services to our customers around the world. If you are interested in our services, please feel free to contact us for more details.

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Astrocyte-Neuron Signaling: A Dynamic Partnership

Astrocytes are actively involved in neural signaling, through changes in calcium levels in response to various stimuli.

  • The core of the calcium signaling process in astrocytes is the release of calcium from internal stores (mainly the endoplasmic reticulum), triggered by a variety of signaling molecules (e.g., ATP, glutamate, and purine). These signals induce the opening of the inositol trisphosphate receptor (IP3R) and the ryanodine receptor (RyR), leading to a surge in cytoplasmic calcium levels.
  • In addition, astrocytes express a variety of calcium-permeable channels, including transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, which contribute to overall calcium signaling and regulate their interaction with neurons.

Astrocyte-neuron communication is a bi-directional dynamic process in which calcium signaling is a key mediator and is essential for the maintenance of neural homeostasis.

Bidirectional communication between neurons and astrocytes. Fig. 1 Bidirectional communication between neurons and astrocytes.1

  • Astrocytes respond to neurotransmitters released by neurons, culminating in increased intracellular calcium that prompts the astrocyte to release gliotransmitters, which in turn, modulate synaptic activity. This 'tripartite synapse model' underscores the reciprocal nature of the astrocytic-neuronal relationship.
  • Instead, astrocytes employ calcium waves to nano-regulate neurotransmission effectively. By manipulating the degree of its own calcium influx, the astrocyte can alter the pacing and amplitude of calcium waves, hence influencing synaptic activity in a controlled manner.

Fundamental Role of Astrocyte-Neuron Calcium Signaling

  • One of its major roles is to regulate synaptic transmission. Astrocytes are actively involved in the regulation of synaptic strength and plasticity by dynamically adjusting their calcium levels in response to neuronal activity.
  • Astrocyte-neuron calcium signaling contributes to neurovascular coupling, linking neuronal activity to cerebral blood flow. Astrocytes release vasoactive substances in response to elevated calcium, affecting local vasculature and ensuring adequate nutrient and oxygen supply to active neuronal regions.
  • It plays a crucial role in shaping neural circuits during development. Astrocytes guide neuronal migration, promote synaptogenesis, and facilitate the establishment of functional neuronal networks through calcium-dependent mechanisms.

Potential Therapeutic Targets for Neurological Disorders

Dysregulated astrocyte-neuron calcium signaling is associated with a variety of neurological disorders. Understanding the molecular basis of this signaling pathway opens avenues for identifying potential therapeutic targets to mitigate the effects of these diseases.

  • Alzheimer's disease: An increase in astrocytic calcium activity, contributing to neuronal hyperactivity, impaired synaptic plasticity, and aberrant neurovascular coupling, hallmark features of the disease.
    Potential targets: Modulation of IP3R and RyR to restore calcium homeostasis in astrocytes may attenuate the neurotoxic effects associated with Alzheimer's disease progression.
  • Parkinson's disease: Astrocyte dysfunction, including aberrant calcium signaling, contributes to the neuroinflammatory environment in the Parkinson's disease brain.
    Potential targets: Modulation of TRP channels or enhancement of astrocyte glutamate clearance, may provide neuroprotection and alleviate motor symptoms. In vitro models help screen for potential therapeutic targets. We are able to provide a variety of customized models of Parkinson's disease.
  • Epilepsy: Seizures are caused by abnormal neuronal excitation, and astrocyte-neuron calcium signaling has emerged as a key factor in seizure generation and propagation.
  • Multiple sclerosis: In multiple sclerosis, astrocytes undergo reactive neurogliosis and exhibit altered calcium signaling.
  • Huntington's disease: It is hallmarked by the presence of mutant huntingtin protein that interrupts astrocyte calcium signaling, compromising astrocyte-mediated synaptic transmission and rendering neurons susceptible to glutamate excitotoxicity.

Astrocyte-neuron calcium signaling is at the forefront of neural communication. Their dynamic interactions emphasize their fundamental role in physiological processes and neurological diseases. As we unravel the complexity of this signaling pathway, the identification of potential therapeutic targets holds promise for the development of innovative strategies to address a range of neurological challenges.

Future Direction

Deciphering the precise role and understanding the complex dynamics of astrocyte-neuron calcium signaling remains a challenge. Despite significant progress, it's still a mystery how this intra- and intercellular communication happens over time and contributes to brain function. Deepening our understanding of this astrocyte-neuron signaling pathway may open up new therapeutic avenues for numerous neurological and psychiatric disorders.

  • Advanced technical innovation in imaging techniques and stereology will stimulate further research in this field.
  • One promising future direction is the development of drugs targeting astrocyte calcium signaling pathways. Identifying where and how these signaling cascades interact could provide key insights to control and modify them for therapeutic benefit.

Astrocyte-neuron calcium signaling, once considered a passive participant in the control of brain function, has emerged as an active and critical player in the orchestration of brain activities. The complex signal of calcium ions within and between these cell types serves as a language of intracellular communication that we are only beginning to understand.

Creative Biolabs is at the forefront of neuroscience research and continues to explore astrocyte-neuron signaling. With our dedicated team of experts and state-of-the-art facilities, we are committed to being the best partner for calcium assay. If you are interested in our custom assay services, or any of the other disease modeling services on our website, please feel free to contact us for more information.


  1. Durkee Caitlin A. and Alfonso Araque. "Diversity and specificity of astrocyte–neuron communication." Neuroscience 396 (2019): 73-78.

For Research Use Only. Not For Clinical Use.