Diverse effects of purkinje cell loss on deep cerebellar and vestibular nuclei neurons in purkinje cell degeneration mutant mice: A possible compensatory mechanism

Jörg Bäurle, Christoph Helmchen, Ursula Grüsser-Cornehls*

*Corresponding author for this work
32 Citations (Scopus)


The genetic defect in the Purkinje cell degeneration (PCD) mutant mouse completely disrupts the cerebellar corticonuclear connection through intrinsic action on the final integrating unit of the cerebellar cortex, the Purkinje cell (PC). The postsynaptic target neurons of the PC in the deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN) and the vestibular nuclei (VN) are denervated by this PC loss by more than two-thirds of their total γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)- ergic innervation. This massive disinhibition should be reflected in an increased and thus electrophysiologically detectable activity of the respective neurons. To address this question, we performed extracellular recordings of PCD mutant and corresponding wild-type VN neurons under sinusoidal vestibular stimulation. The response amplitudes (neuronal response to sinusoidal rotation) of VN neurons in PCD mutant mice showed a decrease rather than the expected increase. The same was true for the mean resting rate, whereas the phase relationships were unaffected for the most part. This finding is a clear indication of compensatory reactions in the VN that substitute quantitatively for the lost PC inhibition. The expression of the calcium-binding protein parvalbumin (Parv) is assumed to correlate with the physiological activity of neurons, and Parv is localized predominantly in inhibitory neurons. Because inhibitory inter- or projecting neurons are also largely denervated by the PC loss, Parv immunocytochemistry also was performed. In wild-type mice, only very few Parv-immunopositive (Parv+) somata were present in the VN, and none were present in the DCN. In PCD mutant mice, a substantial number of Parv+ neuronal somata were visible in the VN, and even more were visible in the DCN. This increase in Parv+ somata in PCD mutant mice is closely related temporally and spatially to the extent of denervation caused by the PCD. Parv+ neuronal somata are first visible in the dentate nucleus at postnatal day (P) 24 and appear in the other cerebellar and VN up to P29. Direct double labeling of Parv and GABA and of Parv and glycine reveals that the large majority of Parv+ neurons colocalize GABA, glycine, or both inhibitory transmitters. These results show that neurons that are postsynaptic to cerebellar PC develop diverse physiological and biochemical reactions in the course of genetically determined PCD. These mechanisms are likely to contribute to the phenotypically mild motor disturbances observed in PCD mutant mice.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)580-596
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 11.08.1997

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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