Graphene Oxide Upregulates the Homeostatic Functions of Primary Astrocytes and Modulates Astrocyte-to-Neuron Communication

Martina Chiacchiaretta, Mattia Bramini, Anna Rocchi, Andrea Armirotti, Emanuele Giordano, Ester Vázquez, Tiziano Bandiera, Stefano Ferroni, Fabrizia Cesca, Fabio Benfenati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Graphene-based materials are the focus of intense research efforts to devise novel theranostic strategies for targeting the central nervous system. In this work, we have investigated the consequences of long-term exposure of primary rat astrocytes to pristine graphene (GR) and graphene oxide (GO) flakes. We demonstrate that GR/GO interfere with a variety of intracellular processes as a result of their internalization through the endolysosomal pathway. Graphene-exposed astrocytes acquire a more differentiated morphological phenotype associated with extensive cytoskeletal rearrangements. Profound functional alterations are induced by GO internalization, including the upregulation of inward-rectifying K+ channels and of Na+-dependent glutamate uptake, which are linked to the astrocyte capacity to control the extracellular homeostasis. Interestingly, GO-pretreated astrocytes promote the functional maturation of cocultured primary neurons by inducing an increase in intrinsic excitability and in the density of GABAergic synapses. The results indicate that graphene nanomaterials profoundly affect astrocyte physiology in vitro with consequences for neuronal network activity. This work supports the view that GO-based materials could be of great interest to address pathologies of the central nervous system associated with astrocyte dysfunctions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5827-5838
Number of pages12
JournalNano Letters
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 12 2018


  • astrocyte-neuron cocultures
  • astrocytes
  • bionano interactions
  • glutamate
  • Graphene
  • K channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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