Satellite Glial Cells and Astrocytes, a Comparative Review

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Astroglia are neural cells, heterogeneous in form and function, which act as supportive elements of the central nervous system; astrocytes contribute to all aspects of neural functions in health and disease. Through their highly ramified processes, astrocytes form close physical contacts with synapses and blood vessels, and are integrated into functional syncytia by gap junctions. Astrocytes interact among themselves and with other cells types (e.g., neurons, microglia, blood vessel cells) by an elaborate repertoire of chemical messengers and receptors; astrocytes also influence neural plasticity and synaptic transmission through maintaining homeostasis of neurotransmitters, K+ buffering, synaptic isolation and control over synaptogenesis and synaptic elimination. Satellite glial cells (SGCs) are the most abundant glial cells in sensory ganglia, and are believed to play major roles in sensory functions, but so far research into SGCs attracted relatively little attention. In this review we compare SGCs to astrocytes with the purpose of using the vast knowledge on astrocytes to explore new aspects of SGCs. We survey the main properties of these two cells types and highlight similarities and differences between them. We conclude that despite the much greater diversity in morphology and signaling mechanisms of astrocytes, there are some parallels between them and SGCs. Both types serve as boundary cells, separating different compartments in the nervous system, but much more needs to be learned on this aspect of SGCs. Astrocytes and SGCs employ chemical messengers and calcium waves for intercellular signaling, but their significance is still poorly understood for both cell types. Both types undergo major changes under pathological conditions, which have a protective function, but an also contribute to disease, and chronic pain in particular. The knowledge obtained on astrocytes is likely to benefit future research on SGCs.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeurochemical research
Early online date1 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021