Numerous lines of evidence suggest that astrocytes actively participate in regulating neuronal excitability, but the role of astrocyte swelling in conrol of neuronal excitability has never been directly tested. Our long-term goal is to identify and understand astrocytic mechanisms controlling neuronal excitability. The objective in this particular application is to determine how specific manipulations of astrocyte swelling and swelling-evoked glutamate release lead to changes in neuronal excitability in situ and in vivo. The central hypothesis is that astrocyte swelling and glutamate release from astrocytic volume-regulated anion channels (VRAC) is both necessary and sufficient to elevate neuronal excitability in situ and in vivo. The rationale for the proposed research is that, identification o novel astrocytic pathways controlling neuronal excitability will provide new astrocytic drug targets for the treatment of neurological disorders and neurodegenerative disease. Guided by strong preliminary data, the central hypothesis will be tested by pursuing three specific aims: 1) Determine the extent to which astrocyte swelling-evoked glutamate release is necessary to increase neuronal excitability in situ;2) Determine the extent to which astrocyte swelling-evoked glutamate release is sufficient to increase neuronal excitability in situ;and 3) Determine the contribution of astrocyte swelling to the control of neuronal excitability in vivo. Astrocyte swellng and glutamate release will be selectively manipulated using patch clamp and transgenic approaches, together with real-time imaging of astrocyte volume changes during recording of NMDA receptor activity in CA1 pyramidal neurons in acute hippocampal slices (Aims 1 and 2), and the effects of hypoosmolarity, hyperosmolarity and selective inhibitors on astrocytic volume changes and neuronal excitability will be assayed in vivo (Aim 3). Our approach is innovative, in our opinion, because it represents a significant departure from the status quo of assessing the role of astrocyte Ca2+-dependent gliotransmission in regulating neuronal excitability, and because techniques have been developed and proven feasible in our hands to selectively and specifically manipulate astrocyte volume changes and release of glutamate. The proposed re- search is significant, because once astrocytic mechanisms controlling neuronal excitability become clarified, novel astrocyte-directed therapies can be devised to prevent excessive levels of neuronal excitability while leaving basal levels of neuronal excitability and normal cognitive function intact. Such knowledge will also pro- vide new strategies to treat neurological disorders associated with cellular volume changes (including various forms of edema), while also fundamentally advancing our understanding of glial-neuronal interactions.
The proposed research is relevant to public health because the discovery of astrocyte volume- regulated mechanisms controlling neuronal excitability will increase understanding of the pathogenesis of numerous neurological disorders and diseases including cerebral edema, stroke, ischemia, water intoxication, epilepsy, and Alzheimer's disease. The project is relevant to NIH's mission, as the research pursues fundamental knowledge of astrocyte-neuron interactions in the brain, which may provide a foundation for the development of novel and more effective strategies to treat neurological disorders by selectively targeting astrocytic receptors and channels.