Panattoni, 2021

2021 - Mol Brain 14, 159 (2021).

Diverse inflammatory threats modulate astrocytes Ca2+ signaling via connexin43 hemichannels in organotypic spinal slices.

Panattoni G, Amoriello R, Memo C, Thallhamer A, Ballerini C, Ballerini L.


Neuroinflammation is an escalation factor shared by a vast range of central nervous system (CNS) pathologies, from neurodegenerative diseases to neuropsychiatric disorders. CNS immune status emerges by the integration of the responses of resident and not resident cells, leading to alterations in neural circuits functions. To explore spinal cord astrocyte reactivity to inflammatory threats we focused our study on the effects of local inflammation in a controlled micro-environment, the organotypic spinal slices, developed from the spinal cord of mouse embryos. These organ cultures represent a complex in vitro model where sensory-motor cytoarchitecture, synaptic properties and spinal cord resident cells, are retained in a 3D fashion and we recently exploit these cultures to model two diverse immune conditions in the CNS, involving different inflammatory networks and products. Here, we specifically focus on the tuning of calcium signaling in astrocytes by these diverse types of inflammation and we investigate the mechanisms which modulate intracellular calcium release and its spreading among astrocytes in the inflamed environment. Organotypic spinal cord slices are cultured for two or three weeks in vitro (WIV) and exposed for 6 h to a cocktail of cytokines (CKs), composed by tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 β) and granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), or to lipopolysaccharide (LPS). By live calcium imaging of the ventral horn, we document an increase in active astrocytes and in the occurrence of spontaneous calcium oscillations displayed by these cells when exposed to each inflammatory threat. Through several pharmacological treatments, we demonstrate that intracellular calcium sources and the activation of connexin 43 (Cx43) hemichannels have a pivotal role in increasing calcium intercellular communication in both CKs and LPS conditions, while the Cx43 gap junction communication is apparently reduced by the inflammatory treatments.


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