Astrocytes provide the structural and functional interface between the cerebral circulation and neuronal networks. They enwrap all intracerebral arterioles and capillaries, control the fl ux of nutrients as well as the ionic and metabolic environment of the neuropil. Astrocytes have the ability to adjust cerebral blood flow to maintain constant PO2 and PCO2 of the brain parenchyma. Release of ATP in the brainstem, presumably by local astrocytes, helps to maintain breathing and counteract hypoxia-induced depression of the respiratory network. Astrocytes also appear to be involved in mediating hypoxia-evoked changes in blood–brain barrier permeability, brain infl ammation, and neuroprotection against ischaemic injury. Thus, astrocytes appear to play a fundamental role in supporting neuronal function not only in normal conditions but also in pathophysiological states when supply of oxygen to the brain is compromised.