The focus of the current research projects in my laboratory revolves around the question of metabolic plasticity of neuron-glia coupling. Our hypothesis is that behavioural conditions, such as for example learning or the sleep-wake cycle, in which synaptic plasticity is well documented, or during specific pathological conditions, are accompanied by changes in the regulation of energy metabolism of astrocytes. We have indeed observed that the 'metabolic profile' of astrocytes is modified during the sleep-wake cycle and during conditions mimicking neuroinflammation in the presence or absence of amyloid-β. The effect of amyloid-β on energy metabolism is dependent on its state of aggregation and on internalization of the peptide by astrocytes. Distinct patterns of metabolic activity could be observed during the learning and recall phases in a spatial learning task. Gene expression analysis in activated areas, notably hippocampous and retrosplenial cortex, demonstrated that the expression levels of several genes implicated in astrocyte-neuron metabolic coupling are enhanced by learning. Regarding metabolic plasticity during the sleep-wake cycle, we have observed that the level of expression of a panel of selected genes, which we know are key for neuron-glia metabolic coupling, is modulated by sleep deprivation.
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