A central goal of neurobiology is to understand how the brain forms, stores, retrieves and encodes information and how these operations go awry in disease. The focus of this application is astrocytes, which make intimate contacts with neurons throughout the brain. Long considered simply the brain's glue, astrocytes are emerging as important regulators of neuronal function. Deciphering the roles of astrocytes in the brain is considered one of the major open questions in neuroscience. This Pioneer Award application seeks to test the novel hypothesis that an early step in brain disorders involves dysfunction of the very fine termini of astrocytes called branchlets that are known to abut synapses. In this context, we define dysfunction as branchlet withdrawal from synapses or altered branchlet signaling, including trophic support, to synapses. These dysfunctions would alter established astrocyte functions including neurotransmitter clearance, synapse regulation and maintenance. This in turn would alter the timing of synaptic transmission, contribute to excitotoxicity and perhaps trigger synapse removal. By focusing on the striatal microcircuitry, we will test the hypothesis that branchlets represents a hitherto overlooked mechanism in neurological and psychiatric disorders that could be exploited for novel therapeutics.

Public Health Relevance

We will study the physiology of astrocyte branchlets in the brain. Our data will provide new information to explore the roles of astrocytes in the normal healthy brain and in diseases of the nervous system, including the processes that lead to the development of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Our work is also highly relevant to all forms of brain damage. THE FOLLOWING RESUME SECTIONS WERE PREPARED BY THE SCIENTIFIC REVIEW OFFICER TO SUMMARIZE THE OUTCOME OF DISCUSSIONS OF THE REVIEW COMMITTEE ON THE FOLLOWING ISSUES: VERTEBRATE ANIMAL (Resume): ACCEPTABLE COMMITTEE BUDGET RECOMMENDATIONS: The bu

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (NDPA) (DP1)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BCMB-N (50))
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Panchision, David M
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University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Medicine
Los Angeles
United States
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Haustein, Martin D; Kracun, Sebastian; Lu, Xiao-Hong et al. (2014) Conditions and constraints for astrocyte calcium signaling in the hippocampal mossy fiber pathway. Neuron 82:413-29
Tong, Xiaoping; Ao, Yan; Faas, Guido C et al. (2014) Astrocyte Kir4.1 ion channel deficits contribute to neuronal dysfunction in Huntington's disease model mice. Nat Neurosci 17:694-703
Jiang, Ruotian; Haustein, Martin D; Sofroniew, Michael V et al. (2014) Imaging intracellular Ca²? signals in striatal astrocytes from adult mice using genetically-encoded calcium indicators. J Vis Exp :e51972
Khakh, Baljit S; Sofroniew, Michael V (2014) Astrocytes and Huntington's disease. ACS Chem Neurosci 5:494-6