Astrocytes are connected by gap junctions, which provide intercellular pathways that allow a direct exchange of ions and small metabolites including second messengers and the propagation of electric currents. The roles of gap junctional communication on whole-cell morphology, cytoskeletal organization, and intercellular communication in astrocytes are not yet clear even in vitro, though there are many studies that have examined the active relation between gap junctions and actin filaments in astrocytes. Here we examined the effects of gap junction inhibitors, which do not interrupt the formation but rather the function of gap junctions, on whole-cell morphology, cytoskeletal organization, and intercellular communication in rat cultured astrocytes. Functional blockade of gap junctions during the formation of an astrocytic monolayer resulted in discordance of actin stress fibers between neighboring cells, even though whole-cell morphology of these cells did not change by such treatment. Mechanical stimulation-induced calcium wave propagation was significantly reduced in these actin-discordance cells even after thorough wash out. Differentiation of astrocytes in the presence of gap junction inhibitors was associated with morphological disarrangement among neighboring cells due to disordered alignment of actin stress fibers between cells. Our results indicate that gap junctional communication enables cell-to-cell coordination of actin stress fibers in astrocytes, thus enhancing intercellular communication through calcium spread.
- Calcium signaling
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