Astrocytes are highly responsive to changes in their microenvironment, and undergo prominent functional alterations in pathological conditions, a process called astrogliosis. In such conditions, astrocytes can gain immune cell-like functions, form glial scars and promote brain repair and regeneration. However, astrogliosis can also contribute to disease pathogenesis by exacerbating inflammation and perturbing the normal physiological functions of astrocytes. The IKK/NF-κB signaling system is a master regulator of inflammation, cell survival and differentiation, which also controls astrocyte functions, in particular their responses to pathological conditions. Activation of IKK/NF-κB signaling in astrocytes is a key driver of neuroinflammation and astrogliosis, which can interfere with normal brain development and homeostasis and can aggravate various central nervous system (CNS) pathologies. Besides IKK/NF-κB signaling, several other signaling pathways regulate pathophysiological responses of astrocytes, in particular hypertrophy, proliferation and the reactivation of neural stem cell-like properties of astrocytes. Further dissection of the role of these signaling pathways in the control of physiological functions and pathophysiological plasticity of astrocytes will reveal new insights into the pathogenesis of neurological diseases and might indicate new neuroprotective and regenerative therapeutic approaches.
Part of the book: Astrocyte