Indexed on: 02 Dec '09Published on: 02 Dec '09Published in: Brain Research Reviews
Gliotransmitters are chemicals released from glial cells fulfilling a following set of criteria: (i) they are synthesized by and/or stored in glia; (ii) their regulated release is triggered by physiological and/or pathological stimuli; (iii) they activate rapid (milliseconds to seconds) responses in neighboring cells; and (iv) they play a role in (patho)physiological processes. Astrocytes can release a variety of gliotransmitters into the extracellular space using several different mechanisms. In this review, we focus on exocytotic mechanism(s) underlying the release of three classes of gliotransmitters: (i) amino acids, such as, glutamate and d-serine; (ii) nucleotides, like adenosine 5'-triphosphate; and (iii) peptides, such as, atrial natriuretic peptide and brain-derived neurotrophic factor. It is becoming clear that astrocytes are endowed with elements that qualify them as cells communicating with neurons and other cells within the central nervous system by employing regulated exocytosis.