Extracellular ATP released from axons is known to assist activity-dependent signaling between neurons and Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system. Here we report that ATP released from astrocytes as a result of neuronal activity can also modulate central synaptic transmission. In cultures of hippocampal neurons, endogenously released ATP tonically suppresses glutamatergic synapses via presynaptic P2Y receptors, an effect that depends on the presence of cocultured astrocytes. Glutamate release accompanying neuronal activity also activates non-NMDA receptors of nearby astrocytes and triggers ATP release from these cells, which in turn causes homo- and heterosynaptic suppression. In CA1 pyramidal neurons of hippocampal slices, a similar synaptic suppression was also produced by adenosine, an immediate degradation product of ATP released by glial cells. Thus, neuron-glia crosstalk may participate in activity-dependent synaptic modulation.
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