Connexin 30 sets synaptic strength by controlling astroglial synapse invasion
Astrocytes play active roles in brain physiology by dynamic interactions with neurons. Connexin 30, one of the two main astroglial gap-junction subunits, is thought to be involved in behavioral and basic cognitive processes. However, the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms are unknown. We show here in mice that connexin 30 controls hippocampal excitatory synaptic transmission through modulation of astroglial glutamate transport, which directly alters synaptic glutamate levels. Unexpectedly, we found that connexin 30 regulated cell adhesion and migration and that connexin 30 modulation of glutamate transport, occurring independently of its channel function, was mediated by morphological changes controlling insertion of astroglial processes into synaptic clefts. By setting excitatory synaptic strength, connexin 30 plays an important role in long-term synaptic plasticity and in hippocampus-based contextual memory. Taken together, these results establish connexin 30 as a critical regulator of synaptic strength by controlling the synaptic location of astroglial processes.