Human Astrocytes Exhibit Tumor Microenvironment-, Age-, and Sex-Related Transcriptomic Signatures.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Astrocytes are critical for the development and function of synapses. There are notable species differences between human astrocytes and commonly used animal models. Yet, it is unclear whether astrocytic genes involved in synaptic function are stable or exhibit dynamic changes associated with disease states and age in humans, which is a barrier in understanding human astrocyte biology and its potential involvement in neurologic diseases. To better understand the properties of human astrocytes, we acutely purified astrocytes from the cerebral cortices of over 40 humans across various ages, sexes, and disease states. We performed RNA sequencing to generate transcriptomic profiles of these astrocytes and identified genes associated with these biological variables. We found that human astrocytes in tumor-surrounding regions downregulate genes involved in synaptic function and sensing of signals in the microenvironment, suggesting involvement of peritumor astrocytes in tumor-associated neural circuit dysfunction. In aging, we also found downregulation of synaptic regulators and upregulation of markers of cytokine signaling, while in maturation we identified changes in ionic transport with implications for calcium signaling. In addition, we identified subtle sexual dimorphism in human cortical astrocytes, which has implications for observed sex differences across many neurologic disorders. Overall, genes involved in synaptic function exhibit dynamic changes in the peritumor microenvironment and aging. These data provide powerful new insights into human astrocyte biology in several biologically relevant states that will aid in generating novel testable hypotheses about homeostatic and reactive astrocytes in humans.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Astrocytes are an abundant class of cells playing integral roles at synapses. Astrocyte dysfunction is implicated in a variety of human neurologic diseases. Yet our knowledge of astrocytes is largely based on mouse studies. Direct knowledge of human astrocyte biology remains limited. Here, we present transcriptomic profiles of human cortical astrocytes, and we identified molecular differences associated with age, sex, and disease state. We found that peritumor and aging astrocytes downregulate genes involved in astrocyte-synapse interactions. These data provide necessary insight into human astrocyte biology that will improve our understanding of human disease.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Krawczyk, MC; Haney, JR; Pan, L; Caneda, C; Khankan, RR; Reyes, SD; Chang, JW; Morselli, M; Vinters, HV; Wang, AC; Cobos, I; Gandal, MJ; Bergsneider, M; Kim, W; Liau, LM; Yong, W; Jalali, A; Deneen, B; Grant, GA; Mathern, GW; Fallah, A; Zhang, Y

Published Date

  • February 23, 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 42 / 8

Start / End Page

  • 1587 - 1603

PubMed ID

  • 34987109

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8883850

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1529-2401

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0407-21.2021


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States