Targeting Astrocyte Signaling Alleviates Cerebrovascular and Synaptic Function Deficits in a Diet-Based Mouse Model of Small Cerebral Vessel Disease

Pradoldej Sompol, Jenna L. Gollihue, Blaine E. Weiss, Ruei Lung Lin, Sami L. Case, Susan D. Kraner, Erica M. Weekman, John C. Gant, Colin B. Rogers, Dana M. Niedowicz, Tiffany L. Sudduth, David K. Powell, Ai Ling Lin, Peter T. Nelson, Olivier Thibault, Donna M. Wilcock, Christopher M. Norris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Despite the indispensable role that astrocytes play in the neurovascular unit, few studies have investigated the functional impact of astrocyte signaling in cognitive decline and dementia related to vascular pathology. Diet-mediated induction of hyperhomocysteinemia (HHcy) recapitulates numerous features of vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID). Here, we used astrocyte targeting approaches to evaluate astrocyte Ca2+ dysregulation and the impact of aberrant astrocyte signaling on cerebrovascular dysfunction and synapse impairment in male and female HHcy diet mice. Two-photon imaging conducted in fully awake mice revealed activity-dependent Ca2+ dysregulation in barrel cortex astrocytes under HHcy. Stimulation of contralateral whiskers elicited larger Ca2+ transients in individual astrocytes of HHcy diet mice compared with control diet mice. However, evoked Ca2+ signaling across astrocyte networks was impaired in HHcy mice. HHcy also was associated with increased activation of the Ca2+/calcineurin-dependent transcription factor NFAT4, which has been linked previously to the reactive astrocyte phenotype and synapse dysfunction in amyloid and brain injury models. Targeting the NFAT inhibitor VIVIT to astrocytes, using adeno-associated virus vectors, led to reduced GFAP promoter activity in HHcy diet mice and improved functional hyperemia in arterioles and capillaries. VIVIT expression in astrocytes also preserved CA1 synaptic function and improved spontaneous alternation performance on the Y maze. Together, the results demonstrate that aberrant astrocyte signaling can impair the major functional properties of the neurovascular unit (i.e., cerebral vessel regulation and synaptic regulation) and may therefore represent a promising drug target for treating VCID and possibly Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1797-1813
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 8 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Sompol et al.


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Ca
  • neurovascular coupling
  • reactive astrocytes
  • synapses
  • vascular dementia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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