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Sleep and Rhythms Projects

The role of astrocytes in generating circadian rhythmicity in health and disease

Costa R, Montagnese S

Journal of Neurochemistry

Evidence is accumulating that the mammalian circadian clock system is considerably more complex than previously believed, also in terms of the cell types that actually contribute to generating the oscillation within the master clock, in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus. Here we review the evidence that has lead to the identification of a bona fide astrocytic circadian clock, and that of the potential contribution of such clock to the generation of circadian and seasonal rhythmicity in health and in neurodegenerative disorders. Finally, we speculate on the role of the astrocytic clock in determining some of the clinical features of hepatic encephalopathy, a reversible neuropsychiatric syndrome associated with advanced liver disease, which is characterised by transient, profound morphological and functional astrocytic abnormalities, in the absence of significant, structural neuronal changes.

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