Astrocytes regulate synaptic transmission in the central nervous system. Astrocytes in vivo have “stems” that express glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), intermediate filaments, and peripheral astrocyte processes (PAPs), which contain actin-rich cytoskeletal structures. At the PAPs, the perisynaptic glia contacts and enwraps synapses, and modulates glia-neuronal communication. Cultured astrocytes have been an invaluable tool for studying roles of astrocytes; however, the morphology of mammalian primary astrocytes cultured in conventional medium containing fetal bovine serum (FBS) was similar to that of fibroblasts, and many culture conditions have been developed to generate stellate astrocytes observed in vivo. Avian astrocytes have been prepared from embryonic chick forebrain and maintained at a high cell density in conventional FBS-containing medium as mammalian astrocytes, thus the morphological analysis of chicken astrocytes has not yet been performed. In the present study, we report that the morphology of astrocytes freshly harvested from the forebrain of a chicken embryo in serum-free Neurobasal medium with B-27 supplement and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) is similar to that of the astrocyte morphology in vivo. We also find that astrocytes in this medium express similar levels of GFAP and two actin-binding proteins as astrocytes in conventional FBS-containing medium, although they have different morphologies. Furthermore, we confirmed that cryopreserved astrocytes differentiate faster than freshly harvested astrocytes.
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Vol. 36 • No. 6