Alfonso Araque, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Neuroscience


Research Interests:

Research of my group focuses on the mechanisms and physiological consequences of the astrocyte-neuron signaling, aiming to understand its role in physiological and pathological aspects of synaptic physiology and brain function. Astrocytes, classically considered as supportive cells for neurons without a direct role in brain information processing, are emerging as relevant elements in brain physiology through their ability to regulate neuronal and synaptic activity. We are studying how astrocytes respond to neuronal activity, how they control neuronal activity and synaptic transmission and plasticity, and how they are involved in neural network function.

My previous work provided the first demonstration of regulation of synaptic transmission by astrocytes and the definition of the Tripartite Synapse concept, which represents a novel view of synaptic physiology. According to this concept, astrocytes are integral functional elements of synapses by exchanging information signals with neurons. My recent contributions include: the demonstration that astrocytes display integrative properties for synaptic information processing, the demonstration of astrocyte regulation of synaptic transmission at single synapses, the first description of astrocyte involvement in endocannabinoid signaling and its consequences on synaptic transmission; the first design of artificial AstroNeuronal networks -a novel concept in artificial intelligence-, and the demonstration that artificial astrocytes improve network performance; the demonstration of astrocyte-mediated synaptic plasticity in vivo; and the demonstration of astrocyte-neuron signaling in human brain tissue.

We are currently investigating the cellular mechanisms and physio-pathological consequences of astrocyte-neuron interactions in different brain areas to test the working hypothesis that brain function results from the operation of AstroNeuronal networks established by the coordinated activity of astrocytes and neurons. We are also interested in deciphering the contribution of the altered function of Tripartite Synapses and AstroNeuronal networks to brain diseases.

Selected Publications:

(For a comprehensive list of recent publications, refer to PubMed, a service provided by the National Library of Medicine.)

Martin R, Bajo-Grañeras R, Moratalla R, Perea G, Araque A (2015) Circuit-specific signaling in astrocyte-neuron networks in basal ganglia pathways. Science 349:730-734.

Oliveira JF, Sardinha VM, Guerra-Gomes S, Araque A, Sousa N (2015) Do stars govern our actions? Astrocyte involvement in rodent behavior. Trends in Neurosciences 38:535-549.

Covelo A, Araque A. Lateral regulation of synaptic transmission by astrocytes. Neuroscience. 2015 Feb 27;. [Epub ahead of print]

Jego P, Pacheco-Torres J, Araque A, Canals S. Functional MRI in mice lacking IP3-dependent calcium signaling in astrocytes. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2014 Oct;34(10):1599-603.

Navarrete M, Díez A, Araque A. Astrocytes in endocannabinoid signalling. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014 Oct 19;369(1654):20130599.

Perez-Alvarez A, Navarrete M, Covelo A, Martin ED, Araque A. Structural and functional plasticity of astrocyte processes and dendritic spine interactions. J Neurosci. 2014 Sep 17;34(38):12738-44.

Gómez-Gonzalo M, Navarrete M, Perea G, Covelo A, Martín-Fernández M, Shigemoto R, Luján R, Araque A. Endocannabinoids Induce Lateral Long-Term Potentiation of Transmitter Release by Stimulation of Gliotransmission. Cereb Cortex. 2014 Sep 26;.

Perea G, Sur M, Araque A (2014) Neuron-glia networks: integral gear of brain function. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 8:378.

Araque A, Carmignoto G, Haydon PG, Oliet SH, Robitaille R, Volterra A. Gliotransmitters travel in time and space. Neuron. 2014 Feb 19;81(4):728-39.

Araque A, Camignoto G, Haydon PG, Oliet SH, Robitaille R, Volterra A (2014) Gliotransmitters travel in time and space. Neuron 81:728-739.

Navarrete M, Perea G, Maglio L, Pastor J, de Sola RG, Araque A (2013) Astrocyte calcium signal and gliotransmission in human brain tissue. Cerebral Cortex 23: 1240-1246.

Navarrete M, Perea G, Fernandez de Sevilla D, Gómez-Gonzalo M, Núñez A, Martín ED, Araque A (2012) Astrocytes mediate in vivo cholinergic-induced synaptic plasticity. Plos Biology 10: e1001259.

Porto-Pazos AB, Veiguela N, Mesejo P, Navarrete M, Alvarellos A, Ibáñez O, Pazos A, Araque A (2011) Artificial astrocytes improve neural network performance. PLoS One 6: e19109.

Navarrete M, Araque A (2010) Endocannabinoids potentiate synaptic transmission through stimulation of astrocytes. Neuron 68: 113-126.

Perea G, Araque A (2010) Glia modulates synaptic transmission. Brain Research Reviews 63: 93-102.

Perea G, Navarrete M, Araque A (2009) Tripartite synapses: astrocytes process and control synaptic information. Trends in Neurosciences 32: 421-431. 

Navarrete M, Araque A (2008) Endocannabinoids mediate neuron-astrocyte communication. Neuron 57: 883-893.                

Perea G, Araque A (2007) Astrocytes potentiate transmitter release at single hippocampal synapses. Science 317: 1083-1086.

Martín ED, Fernández M, Perea G, Pascual O, Haydon PG, Araque A, Ceña V (2007) Adenosine released by astrocytes contributes to hypoxia-induced modulation of synaptic transmission. Glia 55: 36-45.           

Perea G, Araque A (2005) Properties of synaptically evoked astrocyte Ca2+ signal reveal synaptic information processing by astrocytes. Journal of Neuroscience 25: 2192–2203.

Current Graduate Students:

Justin Lines (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Michelle Corkrum (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Caitlin Durkee (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Alfonso Araque