It has been becoming increasingly clear that ‘neuro’science research must consider the roles of non-neuronal cells in the central nervous system if integrated brain function is to be understood. We have by now come to appreciate that astrocytes, the most abundant type of glia cells in the brain, play fundamental roles in neurotransmission, not only by fuelling the underlying cellular processes and by removing waste products, but also by integrating, amplifying, and modulating neuronal signals (Verkhratsky et al., 2015). Astrocytes handle glucose intake across the blood-brain barrier, contain the glycogen stores of the brain and, following glycolysis, release lactate into the extracellular space. This lactate may support neuronal function in states of increased energy demand, for example during memory formation (Alberini et al., 2017). However, beyond energy supply, recent evidence has suggested that lactate also acts as extracellular signalling molecule, for example in context of central arousal to salient stimuli, or in autonomic control (Tang et al., 2014;Teschemacher et al., 2015;Mosienko et al., 2015;Mosienko et al., 2018).
Whilst lacking in electrical excitability, astrocytes express a plethora of G-protein-coupled receptors and highly complex intracellular signalling cascades of which we currently have only limited understanding. Over the recent decade, molecular and imaging tools suitable for investigating these have been developed. This research project will use astrocytes in dissociated and slice cultures, viral vector transgenesis, confocal imaging and biosensor electrode measurements to study the effects of GPCR activation on lactate production and release.