Astrocytes generate Na+-mediated metabolic waves.
Glutamate-evoked Na+ increase in astrocytes has been identified as a signal coupling synaptic activity to glucose consumption. Astrocytes participate in multicellular signaling by transmitting intercellular Ca2+ waves. Here we show that intercellular Na+ waves are also evoked by activation of single cultured cortical mouse astrocytes in parallel with Ca2+ waves; however, there are spatial and temporal differences. Indeed, maneuvers that inhibit Ca2+ waves also inhibit Na+ waves; however, inhibition of the Na+/glutamate cotransporters or enzymatic degradation of extracellular glutamate selectively inhibit the Na+ wave. Thus, glutamate released by a Ca2+ wave-dependent mechanism is taken up by the Na+/glutamate cotransporters, resulting in a regenerative propagation of cytosolic Na+ increases. The Na+ wave gives rise to a spatially correlated increase in glucose uptake, which is prevented by glutamate transporter inhibition. Therefore, astrocytes appear to function as a network for concerted neurometabolic coupling through the generation of intercellular Na+ and metabolic waves.