Astrocytes support hippocampal-dependent memory and long-term potentiation via interleukin-1 signaling

Ofra Ben Menachem-Zidon, Avi Avital, Yair Ben-Menahem, Inbal Goshen, Tirzah Kreisel, Eli M. Shmueli, Menahem Segal, Tamir Ben Hur, Raz Yirmiya*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Recent studies indicate that astrocytes play an integral role in neural and synaptic functioning. To examine the implications of these findings for neurobehavioral plasticity we investigated the involvement of astrocytes in memory and long-term potentiation (LTP), using a mouse model of impaired learning and synaptic plasticity caused by genetic deletion of the interleukin-1 receptor type I (IL-1RI). Neural precursor cells (NPCs), derived from either wild type (WT) or IL-1 receptor knockout (IL-1rKO) neonatal mice, were labeled with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and transplanted into the hippocampus of either IL-1rKO or WT adult host mice. Transplanted NPCs survived and differentiated into astrocytes (expressing GFAP and S100β), but not to neurons or oligodendrocytes. The NPCs-derived astrocytes from WT but not IL-1rKO mice displayed co-localization of GFAP with the IL-1RI. Four to twelve weeks post-transplantation, memory functioning was examined in the fear-conditioning and the water maze paradigms and LTP of perforant path-dentate gyrus synapses was assessed in anesthetized mice. As expected, IL-1rKO mice transplanted with IL-1rKO cells or sham operated displayed severe memory disturbances in both paradigms as well as a marked impairment in LTP. In contrast, IL-1rKO mice transplanted with WT NPCs displayed a complete rescue of the impaired memory functioning as well as partial restoration of LTP. These findings indicate that astrocytes play a critical role in memory functioning and LTP, and specifically implicate astrocytic IL-1 signaling in these processes. The results suggest novel conceptualization and therapeutic targets for neuropsychiatric disorders characterized by impaired astrocytic functioning concomitantly with disturbed memory and synaptic plasticity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1008-1016
Number of pages9
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 295/07 to RY), by the legacy heritage biomedical program of the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 430/09 ), and the Israel Foundations Trustees (OBM and RY).


  • Astrocytes
  • Hippocampus
  • Interleukin-1 (IL-1)
  • Long-term potentiation (LTP)
  • Memory
  • Neural precursor cells


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