Astrocytes play critical roles in neural circuit formation and function. Recent studies have revealed several secreted and contact-mediated signals from astrocytes which are essential for neurite outgrowth and synapse formation. However, the mechanisms underlying the regulation of dendritic branching by astrocytes remain elusive. Phospholipase D1 (PLD1), which catalyzes the hydrolysis of phosphatidylcholine (PC) to generate phosphatidic acid (PA) and choline, has been implicated in the regulation of neurite outgrowth. Here we showed that knockdown of PLD1 selectively in astrocytes reduced dendritic branching of neurons in neuron-glia mixed culture. Further studies from sandwich-like cocultures and astrocyte conditioned medium suggested that astrocyte PLD1 regulated dendritic branching through secreted signals. We later demonstrated that PA was the key mediator for astrocyte PLD1 to regulate dendritic branching. Moreover, PA itself was sufficient to promote dendritic branching of neurons. Lastly, we showed that PA could activate protein kinase A (PKA) in neurons and promote dendritic branching through PKA signaling. Taken together, our results demonstrate that astrocyte PLD1 and its lipid product PA are essential regulators of dendritic branching in neurons. These results may provide new insight into mechanisms underlying how astrocytes regulate dendrite growth of neurons.
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