Alzheimerxxxs disease (AD) may affect all cell types in the central nervous system. Astrocytes have rarely been investigated in the aged brain and the role of astrocytes in AD is poorly understood. In this study, we used acute brain slices from an amyloid-beta overexpressing double transgenic mouse line where astrocytes express the enhanced green fluorescent protein under the control of the glial fibrillary acidic protein promoter. Using the patch-clamp technique, we analyzed cell coupling and glutamate reactivity, two main features of astrocytes, in the living tissue of aged mice in an AD mouse model. We found large astrocytic networks in the aged (20 to 27 months) transgenic animals in the neocortex, but not in the hippocampus. In contrast, coupling was low in all brain regions of aged control mice. We furthermore noticed significant changes in the responses of astrocytes to glutamate. The expression of functional glutamate transporters and AMPA/kainate-type glutamate receptors increases in the amyloid-beta protein precursor overexpressing mice. Thus, exposure to amyloid-beta leads to altered astrocyte properties and this change might be beneficial to maintain synaptic function.
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