We observed the time-dependent morphological alteration of astrocytes during their adhesion by atomic force microscopy (AFM) and investigated the relationships between this morphological alteration and the localization of actin filaments and connexin 43 by immunocytochemistry. The fine processes observed as fine ridge-like structures by AFM were closely concerned with actin filaments by immunocytochemistry. During the adhesion of astrocytes, actin filaments appeared to be aligned regularly beyond the borders among different cells. Detectable connexin immunoreactivity was changed in the following regions: 1) the tips of fine cell processes and the cell margin when astrocytes started to adhere; 2) the border of cells when astrocytes tightly adhered; and 3) non-specific sites when astrocytes became a cluster. In the former two cases, the immunopositive spots for connexin were observed to colocalize with the tips of cell processes with actin filaments. These results strongly suggest that connexin associated with actin filaments at the tip of cell processes plays an important role in the early stage of the adhesion of astrocytes. These observations afford valuable clues for understanding the glial communication.
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