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IIA. Astrocytes - structure/function

A. Characteristics of normal astrocytes

Astrocytes have many cytoplasmic processes that terminate on blood vessels, neuronal cell bodies, axons and synaptic terminals. Functions of astrocytes include physical and metabolic support for neurons, detoxification, guidance during migration, regulation of energy metabolism, electrical insulation (for unmyelinated axons), transport of blood-borne material to the neuron, and reaction to injury.

Axonal end-feet that surround capillaries contribute to formation of the blood-brain barrier. Astrocytes can be identified specifically through immunocytochemical staining for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP).



In a normal H&E-stained section, only astrocyte nuclei are stained.  In this image, one  astrocyte nucleus is seen in the center of the three neurons.
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