Astrocyte heterogeneity across the brain and spinal cord occurs developmentally, in adulthood and in response to demyelination

Hyesook Yoon, Grant Walters, Alex R. Paulsen, Isobel A. Scarisbrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Astrocytes have emerged as essential regulators of function and response to injury in the brain and spinal cord, yet very little is known about regional differences that exist. Here we compare the expression of key astroglial markers (glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and Aldehyde Dehydrogenase-1 Family Member L1 (ALDH1L1)) across these disparate poles of the neuraxis, tracking their expression developmentally and in the context of demyelination. In addition, we document changes in the astrocyte regulatory cytokine interleukin 6 (IL-6), and its signaling partner signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), in vivo and in vitro. Results demonstrate that GFAP expression is higher in the developing and adult spinal cord relative to brain. Comparisons between GFAP and ALDH1L1 expression suggest elevations in spinal cord GFAP during the early postnatal period reflect an accelerated appearance of astrocytes, while elevations in adulthood reflect higher expression by individual astrocytes. Notably, increases in spinal cord compared to whole brain GFAP were paralleled by higher levels of IL-6 and STAT3. Equivalent elevations in GFAP, GFAP/ ALDH1L1 ratios, and in IL-6, were observed in primary astrocyte cultures derived from spinal cord compared to cortex. Also, higher levels of GFAP were observed in the spinal cord compared to the brain after focal demyelinating injury. Altogether, these studies point to key differences in astrocyte abundance and the expression of GFAP and IL-6 across the brain and spinal cord that are positioned to influence regional specialization developmentally and responses occurring in the context of injury and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0180697
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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