Assessing Neuron-Astrocyte Spatial Interactions Using the Neuron-Astrocyte Proximity Assay

Aina Badia-Soteras, J. Christopher Octeau, Mark H.G. Verheijen, Baljit S. Khakh

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Astrocytes are morphologically complex cells with numerous close contacts with neurons at the level of their somata, branches, and branchlets. The smallest astrocyte processes make discrete contacts with synapses at scales that cannot be observed by standard light microscopy. At such contact points, astrocytes are thought to perform both homeostatic and neuromodulatory roles-functions that are proposed to be determined by their close spatial apposition. To study such spatial interactions, we previously developed a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based approach, which enables observation and tracking of the static and dynamic proximity of astrocyte processes with synapses. The approach is compatible with standard imaging techniques such as confocal microscopy and permits assessment of the most proximate contacts between astrocytes and neurons in live tissues. In this protocol article we describe the approach to analyze the contacts between striatal astrocyte processes and corticostriatal neuronal projection terminals onto medium spiny neurons. We report the required protocols in detail, including adeno-associated virus microinjections, acute brain slice preparation, imaging, and post hoc FRET quantification. The article provides a detailed description that can be used to characterize and study astrocyte process proximity to synapses in living tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere91
Pages (from-to)e91
JournalCurrent protocols in neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • astrocyte
  • imaging
  • neuron
  • optical
  • synapse


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