Motor-Skill Learning Is Dependent on Astrocytic Activity.

Ragunathan Padmashri, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Anand Suresh, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Michael D. Boska, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Anna Dunaevsky, University of Nebraska Medical Center


Motor-skill learning induces changes in synaptic structure and function in the primary motor cortex through the involvement of a long-term potentiation- (LTP-) like mechanism. Although there is evidence that calcium-dependent release of gliotransmitters by astrocytes plays an important role in synaptic transmission and plasticity, the role of astrocytes in motor-skill learning is not known. To test the hypothesis that astrocytic activity is necessary for motor-skill learning, we perturbed astrocytic function using pharmacological and genetic approaches. We find that perturbation of astrocytes either by selectively attenuating IP3R2 mediated astrocyte Ca(2+) signaling or using an astrocyte specific metabolic inhibitor fluorocitrate (FC) results in impaired motor-skill learning of a forelimb reaching-task in mice. Moreover, the learning impairment caused by blocking astrocytic activity using FC was rescued by administration of the gliotransmitter D-serine. The learning impairments are likely caused by impaired LTP as FC blocked LTP in slices and prevented motor-skill training-induced increases in synaptic AMPA-type glutamate receptor in vivo. These results support the conclusion that normal astrocytic Ca(2+) signaling during a reaching task is necessary for motor-skill learning.