Stress alters brain function by modifying the structure and function of neurons and astrocytes. The fine processes of astrocytes are critical for the clearance of neurotransmitters during synaptic transmission. Thus, experience-dependent remodeling of glial processes is anticipated to alter the output of neural circuits..
..Significance statement Astrocytes play important roles in synaptic transmission by extending fine processes around synapses. In this study, we showed that a single exposure to an acute stress triggered a retraction of lateral/fine processes in mouse cerebellar astrocytes. These astrocytes express GluA1, a glutamate receptor subunit known to lengthen astrocyte processes. We showed that astrocytic structural changes are associated with a reduction of GluA1 protein levels. This requires activation of β-adrenergic receptors and is triggered by noradrenaline released during stress.
We identified adenylyl cyclase 5 as a downstream effector, an enzyme that elevates cAMP levels, and found that lowering GluA1 levels depends on CPEB3 proteins that bind to GluA1 mRNA. Therefore, stress regulates GluA1 protein synthesis via an adrenergic/adenylyl cyclase/CPEB3 pathway in astrocytes and remodels their fine processes.