February 28, 2021

Architecture of the Neuro-Glia-Vascular System

Astrocytes connect the vasculature to neurons and mediate the supply of nutrients and biochemicals. They also remove metabolites from the neurons and extracellular environment. They are involved in a growing number of physiological and pathophysiological processes. Understanding the biophysical, physiological, and molecular interactions in this neuro-glia-vascular ensemble (NGV) and how they support brain function is severely restricted by the lack of detailed cytoarchitecture. To address this problem, we used data from multiple sources to create a data-driven digital reconstruction of the NGV at micrometer anatomical resolution. We reconstructed 0.2 mm3 of rat somatosensory cortical tissue with approximately 16000 morphologically detailed neurons, its microvasculature, and approximately 2500 morphologically detailed protoplasmic astrocytes. The consistency of the reconstruction with a wide array of experimental measurements allows novel predictions of the numbers and locations of astrocytes and astrocytic processes that support different types of neurons. This allows anatomical reconstruction of the spatial microdomains of astrocytes and their overlapping regions. The number and locations of end-feet connecting each astrocyte to the vasculature can be determined as well as the extent to which they cover the microvasculature. The structural analysis of the NGV circuit showed that astrocytic shape and numbers are constrained by vasculature’s spatial occupancy and their functional role to form NGV connections. The digital reconstruction of the NGV is a resource that will enable a better understanding of the anatomical principles and geometric constraints which govern how astrocytes support brain function.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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