Alfonso Araque, PhD

Professor, Department of Neuroscience

Alfonso Araque

Contact Info

Office Phone 612-806-3310

Lab Phone 612-301-7733

Lab Address:
4-260 WMBB


Alfonso Araque is a professor in the Department of Neuroscience. His research interests focus on the mechanisms, properties and physiological consequences of the communication between neurons and astrocytes. His research seeks to understand how the communication between neurons and astrocytes affects physiological and pathological aspects of brain function. While most studies on drug addiction are focused on neuronal mechanisms, his team aims to elucidate the involvement of astrocytes in behaviors associated with reward signaling and psychostimulant drugs, which may reveal astrocytes as potential targets for treatment of motivation disorders such as drug addiction.


Research Summary/Interests

Astrocyte-neuron signaling

Research of my group focuses on the mechanisms and physiological consequences of the astrocyte-neuron signaling, aiming to understand its role in physiological and pathological aspects of synaptic physiology and brain function. Astrocytes, classically considered as supportive cells for neurons without a direct role in brain information processing, are emerging as relevant elements in brain physiology through their ability to regulate neuronal and synaptic activity. We are studying how astrocytes respond to neuronal activity, how they control neuronal activity and synaptic transmission and plasticity, and how they are involved in neural network function.

My previous work provided the first demonstration of regulation of synaptic transmission by astrocytes and the definition of the Tripartite Synapse concept, which represents a novel view of synaptic physiology. According to this concept, astrocytes are integral functional elements of synapses by exchanging information signals with neurons. My recent contributions include: the demonstration that astrocytes display integrative properties for synaptic information processing, the demonstration of astrocyte regulation of synaptic transmission at single synapses, the first description of astrocyte involvement in endocannabinoid signaling and its consequences on synaptic transmission; the first design of artificial AstroNeuronal networks -a novel concept in artificial intelligence-, and the demonstration that artificial astrocytes improve network performance; the demonstration of astrocyte-mediated synaptic plasticity in vivo; and the demonstration of astrocyte-neuron signaling in human brain tissue.

We are currently investigating the cellular mechanisms and physio-pathological consequences of astrocyte-neuron interactions in different brain areas to test the working hypothesis that brain function results from the operation of AstroNeuronal networks established by the coordinated activity of astrocytes and neurons. We are also interested in deciphering the contribution of the altered function of Tripartite Synapses and AstroNeuronal networks to brain diseases.


Yu D, Zarate N, White A, Coates D, Tsai W, Nanclares C, Cuccu F, Yue JS, Brown TG, Mansky RH, Jiang K, Kim H, Nichols-Meade T, Larson SN, Gundry K, Zhang Y, Tomas-Zapico C, Lucas JJ, Benneyworth M, Öz G, Cvetanovic M, Araque A, Gomez-Pastor R. CK2 alpha prime and alpha-synuclein pathogenic functional interaction mediates synaptic dysregulation in huntington's disease. Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2022 Jun 3;10(1):83. doi: 10.1186/s40478-022-01379-8. Erratum in: Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2022 Jun 22;10(1):89.

Corkrum, M, Covelo, A, Lines, J, Bellocchio, L, Pisansky, M, Loke, K, Quintana, R, Rothwell, PE, Lujan, R, Marsicano, G, Martin, ED, Thomas, MJ, Kofuji, P & Araque, A 2020, 'Dopamine-Evoked Synaptic Regulation in the Nucleus Accumbens Requires Astrocyte Activity', Neuron.

Fullana, MN, Covelo, A, Bortolozzi, A, Araque, A & Artigas, F 2019, 'In vivo knockdown of astroglial glutamate transporters GLT-1 and GLAST increases excitatory neurotransmission in mouse infralimbic cortex: Relevance for depressive-like phenotypes', European Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 29, no. 11, pp. 1288-1294.

Singh, B, Covelo, A, Martell-Martínez, H, Nanclares, C, Sherman, MA, Okematti, E, Meints, J, Teravskis, PJ, Gallardo, C, Savonenko, AV, Benneyworth, MA, Lesne, SE, Liao, D, Araque, A & Lee, MK 2019, 'Tau is required for progressive synaptic and memory deficits in a transgenic mouse model of ?-synucleinopathy',Acta Neuropathologica, vol. 138, no. 4, pp. 551-574.

Kofuji, P & Araque, A 2019, ‘Swelling gliotransmission by Swell1 channels’, Neuron, vol. 102: pp. 711-713.

Liu, J, McDaid, L, Araque, A, Wade, J, Harkin, J, Karim, S, Henshall, DC, Connolly, NMC, Johnson, AP, Tyrrell, AM, Timmis, J, Millard, AG, Hilder, J & Halliday, DM 2019, 'GABA Regulation of Burst Firing in Hippocampal Astrocyte Neural Circuit: A Biophysical Model', Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, vol. 13, 335.

Corkrum M, Rothwell, PE, Thomas, MJ, Kofuji, P & Araque, A 2019, ‘Opioid-mediated astrocyte-neuron signaling in the nucleus accumbens’, Cells, vol. 8: E586.

Durkee, CA, Covelo, A, Lines, J, Kofuji, P, Aguilar, J & Araque, A 2019, 'G i/o protein-coupled receptors inhibit neurons but activate astrocytes and stimulate gliotransmission', Glia, vol. 67, no. 6, pp. 1076-1093.

García-Cáceres, C, Balland, E, Prevot, V, Luquet, S, Woods, SC, Koch, M, Horvath, TL, Yi, CX, Chowen, JA, Verkhratsky, A, Araque, A, Bechmann, I & Tschöp, MH 2019, 'Role of astrocytes, microglia, and tanycytes in brain control of systemic metabolism', Nature neuroscience, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 7-14.

Durkee, CA & Araque, A 2019, 'Diversity and Specificity of Astrocyte–neuron Communication', Neuroscience, vol. 396, pp. 73-78.

Covelo, A & Araque, A 2018, ‘Stimulating Astrocytes to Remember’, Cell vol. 174: pp. 12-13.