Astrocytes are involved in many diseases of the central nervous system, not only as reactive cells to neuronal damage but also as primary actors in the pathological process. Astrogliopathy is a term used to designate the involvement of astrocytes as key elements in the pathogenesis and pathology of diseases and injuries of the central nervous system. Astrocytopathy is utilized to name non-reactive astrogliosis covering hypertrophy, atrophy and astroglial degeneration with loss of function in astrocytes and pathological remodeling, as well as senescent changes. Astrogliopathy and astrocytopathy are hallmarks of tauopathies—neurodegenerative diseases with abnormal hyper-phosphorylated tau aggregates in neurons and glial cells. The involvement of astrocytes covers different disease-specific types such as tufted astrocytes, astrocytic plaques, thorn-shaped astrocytes, granular/fuzzy astrocytes, ramified astrocytes and astrocytes with globular inclusions, as well as others which are unnamed but not uncommon in familial frontotemporal degeneration linked to mutations in the tau gene. Knowledge of molecular differences among tau-containing astrocytes is only beginning, and their distinct functional implications remain rather poorly understood. However, tau-containing astrocytes in certain conditions have deleterious effects on neuronal function and nervous system integrity. Moreover, recent studies have shown that tau-containing astrocytes obtained from human brain tauopathies have a capacity for abnormal tau seeding and spreading in wild type mice. Inclusive conceptions include a complex scenario involving neurons, glial cells and local environmental factors that potentiate each other and promote disease progression in tauopathies.
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