Astrocytes have critical functions throughout the central nervous system (CNS) and have emerged as regulators of synaptic development and function. With their highly complex morphologies, they are able to interact with thousands of synapses via peripheral astrocytic processes (PAPs), ensheathing neuronal axons and dendrites to form the tripartite synapse. In this way, astrocytes engage in crosstalk with neurons to mediate a variety of CNS processes including the regulation of extracellular matrix protein signaling, formation and maintenance of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), axon growth and guidance, homeostasis of the synaptic microenvironment, synaptogenesis, and the promotion of synaptic diversity. In this review, we discuss several key astrocyte signaling factors (thrombospondins, netrins, apolipoproteins, neuregulins, bone morphogenetic proteins, and neuroligins) in the maintenance and regulation of synapse formation. We also explore how these astrocyte signaling factors are impacted by and contribute to substance abuse, particularly alcohol and cocaine use.
Walker CD, Risher WC, Risher ML. Regulation of synaptic development by astrocyte signaling factors and their emerging roles in substance abuse. Cells. 2020 Feb;9(2):297.