Variable timing of synaptic transmission in cerebellar unipolar brush cells.
ABSTRACT: The cerebellum ensures the smooth execution of movements, a task that requires accurate neural signaling on multiple time scales. Computational models of cerebellar timing mechanisms have suggested that temporal information in cerebellum-dependent behavioral tasks is in part computed locally in the cerebellar cortex. These models rely on the local generation of delayed signals spanning hundreds of milliseconds, yet the underlying neural mechanism remains elusive. Here we show that a granular layer interneuron, called the unipolar brush cell, is well suited to represent time intervals in a robust way in the cerebellar cortex. Unipolar brush cells exhibited delayed increases in excitatory synaptic input in response to presynaptic stimulation in mouse cerebellar slices. Depending on the frequency of stimulation, delays extended from zero up to hundreds of milliseconds. Such controllable protraction of delayed currents was the result of an unusual mode of synaptic integration, which was well described by a model of steady-state AMPA receptor activation. This functionality extends the capabilities of the cerebellum for adaptive control of behavior by facilitating appropriate output in a broad temporal window.
Project description:AMPARs mediate the briefest synaptic currents in the brain by virtue of their rapid gating kinetics. However, at the mossy fiber-to-unipolar brush cell synapse in the cerebellum, AMPAR-mediated EPSCs last for hundreds of milliseconds, and it has been proposed that this time course reflects slow diffusion from a complex synaptic space. We show that upon release of glutamate, synaptic AMPARs were desensitized by transmitter by >90%. As glutamate levels subsequently fell, recovery of transmission occurred due to the presence of the AMPAR accessory protein stargazin that enhances the AMPAR response to low levels of transmitter. This gradual increase in receptor activity following desensitization accounted for the majority of synaptic transmission at this synapse. Moreover, the amplitude, duration, and shape of the synaptic response was tightly controlled by plasma membrane glutamate transporters, indicating that clearance of synaptic glutamate during the slow EPSC is dictated by an uptake process.
Project description:Unipolar brush cells (UBCs) of the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) and vestibular cerebellar cortex receive glutamatergic mossy fiber input on an elaborate brush-like dendrite. Two subtypes of UBC have been established based on immunohistochemical markers and physiological profiles, but the relation of these subtypes to the response to mossy fiber input is not clear. We examined the synaptic physiology of auditory UBCs in mouse brain slices, identifying two response profiles, and correlated each with a specific UBC subtype. One subtype had a striking biphasic excitatory response mediated by AMPAR and mGluR1?. The second was mGluR1? negative and was dominated by a strongly inhibitory outward K(+) current. These two subtypes upregulated or downregulated spontaneous firing, respectively. By analogy to the retina, we propose that UBCs comprise ON and OFF cells with respect to their response to glutamatergic input and may therefore provide distinct parallel processing of multisensory input to their targets.
Project description:In most mammals the cochlear nuclear complex (CN) contains a distributed system of granule cells (GCS), whose parallel fiber axons innervate the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN). Like their counterpart in cerebellum, CN granules are innervated by mossy fibers of various origins. The GCS is complemented by unipolar brush (UBCs) and Golgi cells, and by stellate and cartwheel cells of the DCN. This cerebellum-like microcircuit modulates the activity of the DCN's main projection neurons, the pyramidal, giant and tuberculoventral neurons, and is thought to improve auditory performance by integrating acoustic and proprioceptive information. In this paper, we focus on the rat UBCs, a chemically heterogeneous neuronal population, using antibodies to calretinin, metabotropic glutamate receptor 1alpha (mGluR1alpha), epidermal growth factor substrate 8 (Eps8) and the transcription factor T-box gene Tbr2 (Tbr2). Eps8 and Tbr2 labeled most of the CN's UBCs, if not the entire population, while calretinin and mGluR1alpha distinguished two largely separate subsets with overlapping distributions. By double labeling with antibodies to Tbr2 and the alpha6 GABA receptor A (GABAA) subunit, we found that UBCs populate all regions of the GCS and occur at remarkably high densities in the DCN and subpeduncular corner, but rarely in the lamina. Although GCS subregions likely share the same microcircuitry, their dissimilar UBC densities suggest they may be functionally distinct. UBCs and granules are also present in regions previously not included in the GCS, namely the rostrodorsal magnocellular portions of ventral cochlear nucleus, vestibular nerve root, trapezoid body, spinal tract and sensory and principal nuclei of the trigeminal nerve, and cerebellar peduncles. The UBC's dendritic brush receives AMPA- and NMDA-mediated input from an individual mossy fiber, favoring singularity of input, and its axon most likely forms several mossy fiber-like endings that target numerous granule cells and other UBCs, as in the cerebellum. The UBCs therefore, may amplify afferent signals temporally and spatially, synchronizing pools of target neurons.
Project description:In vestibular cerebellum, primary afferents carry signals from single vestibular end organs, whereas secondary afferents from vestibular nucleus carry integrated signals. Selective targeting of distinct mossy fibers determines how the cerebellum processes vestibular signals. We focused on vestibular projections to ON and OFF classes of unipolar brush cells (UBCs), which transform single mossy fiber signals into long-lasting excitation or inhibition respectively, and impact the activity of ensembles of granule cells. To determine whether these contacts are indeed selective, connectivity was traced back from UBC to specific ganglion cell, hair cell and vestibular organ subtypes in mice. We show that a specialized subset of primary afferents contacts ON UBCs, but not OFF UBCs, while secondary afferents contact both subtypes. Striking anatomical differences were observed between primary and secondary afferents, their synapses, and the UBCs they contact. Thus, each class of UBC functions to transform specific signals through distinct anatomical pathways.
Project description:Pax6 is a prominent gene in brain development. The deletion of Pax6 results in devastated development of eye, olfactory bulb, and cortex. However, it has been reported that the Pax6-null Sey cerebellum only has minor defects involving granule cells despite Pax6 being expressed throughout cerebellar development. The present work has uncovered a requirement of Pax6 in the development of all rhombic lip (RL) lineages. A significant downregulation of Tbr1 and Tbr2 expression is found in the Sey cerebellum, these are cell-specific markers of cerebellar nuclear (CN) neurons and unipolar brush cells (UBCs), respectively. The examination of Tbr1 and Lmx1a immunolabeling and Nissl staining confirmed the loss of CN neurons from the Sey cerebellum. CN neuron progenitors are produced in the mutant but there is an enhanced death of these neurons as shown by increased presence of caspase-3-positive cells. These data indicate that Pax6 regulates the survival of CN neuron progenitors. Furthermore, the analysis of experimental mouse chimeras suggests a cell-extrinsic role of Pax6 in CN neuron survival. For UBCs, using Tbr2 immunolabeling, these cells are significantly reduced in the Sey cerebellum. The loss of UBCs in the mutant is due partly to cell death in the RL and also to the reduced production of progenitors from the RL. These results demonstrate a critical role for Pax6 in regulating the generation and survival of UBCs. This and previous work from our laboratory demonstrate a seminal role of Pax6 in the development of all cerebellar glutamatergic neurons.Pax6 is a key molecule in development. Pax6 is best known as the master control gene in eye development with mutations causing aniridia in humans. Pax6 also plays important developmental roles in the cortex and olfactory bulb. During cerebellar development, Pax6 is robustly expressed in the germinal zone of all glutamatergic neurons [cerebellar nuclear (CN) neurons, granule cells, and unipolar brush cells (UBCs)]. Past work has not found abnormalities in the CN and UBC populations. Our study reveals that the Pax6-null mutation dramatically affects these cells and identifies Pax6 as a key regulator of cell survival in CN neurons and of cell production in UBCs. The present study shows how Pax6 is key to the development of glutamatergic cells in the cerebellum.
Project description:The Liver Kinase B1 (LKB1) gene plays crucial roles in cell differentiation, proliferation and the establishment of cell polarity. We created LKB1 conditional knockout mice (LKB1(Atoh1) CKO) to investigate the function of LKB1 in cerebellar development. The LKB1(Atoh1) CKO mice displayed motor dysfunction. In the LKB1(Atoh1) CKO cerebellum, the overall structure had a larger volume and more lobules. LKB1 inactivation led to an increased proliferation of granule cell precursors (GCPs), aberrant granule cell migration and overproduction of unipolar brush cells. To investigate the mechanism underlying the abnormal foliation, we examined sonic hedgehog signalling (Shh) by testing its transcriptional mediators, the Gli proteins, which regulate the GCPs proliferation and cerebellar foliation during cerebellar development. The expression levels of Gli genes were significantly increased in the mutant cerebellum. In vitro assays showed that the proliferation of cultured GCPs from mutant cerebellum significantly increased, whereas the proliferation of mutant GCPs significantly decreased in the presence of a Shh inhibitor GDC-0049. Thus, LKB1 deficiency in the LKB1(Atoh1) CKO mice enhanced Shh signalling, leading to the excessive GCP proliferation and the formation of extra lobules. We proposed that LKB1 regulates cerebellar development by controlling GCPs proliferation through Shh signalling during cerebellar development.
Project description:Study of the origin and development of cerebellar tumours has been hampered by the complexity and heterogeneity of cerebellar cells that change over the course of development. Here we use single-cell transcriptomics to study more than 60,000 cells from the developing mouse cerebellum and show that different molecular subgroups of childhood cerebellar tumours mirror the transcription of cells from distinct, temporally restricted cerebellar lineages. The Sonic Hedgehog medulloblastoma subgroup transcriptionally mirrors the granule cell hierarchy as expected, while group 3 medulloblastoma resembles Nestin+ stem cells, group 4 medulloblastoma resembles unipolar brush cells, and PFA/PFB ependymoma and cerebellar pilocytic astrocytoma resemble the prenatal gliogenic progenitor cells. Furthermore, single-cell transcriptomics of human childhood cerebellar tumours demonstrates that many bulk tumours contain a mixed population of cells with divergent differentiation. Our data highlight cerebellar tumours as a disorder of early brain development and provide a proximate explanation for the peak incidence of cerebellar tumours in early childhood.
Project description:The study of the origin and development of cerebellar tumours has been hampered by the complexity and heterogeneity of cerebellar cells that change over the course of development. We used single-cell transcriptomics to study >60,000 cells from the developing murine cerebellum, and show that different molecular subgroups of childhood cerebellar tumours mirror the transcription of cells from distinct, temporally restricted cerebellar lineages. Sonic Hedgehog medulloblastoma transcriptionally mirrors the granule cell hierarchy as expected, whereas Grp3-MB resemble Nestin+ve stem cells, Group 4 medulloblastomas resemble unipolar brush cells, and PFA/PFB ependymoma and cerebellar pilocytic astrocytoma resemble the pre-natal gliogenic progenitor cells. Furthermore, single-cell transcriptomics of human childhood cerebellar tumours demonstrates that many bulk tumours contain a mixed population of cells with divergent differentiation. Our data highlight cerebellar tumours as a disorder of early brain development, and provide a proximate explanation for the peak incidence of cerebellar tumours in early childhood. Overall design: 9 mouse hindbrains from different developmental stages were processed for single cell mRNA sequencing. No technical or biological replicates were used.
Project description:Synapses of glutamatergic mossy fibers (MFs) onto cerebellar unipolar brush cells (UBCs) generate slow excitatory (ON) or inhibitory (OFF) postsynaptic responses dependent on the complement of glutamate receptors expressed on the UBC's large dendritic brush. Using mouse brain slice recording and computational modeling of synaptic transmission, we found that substantial glutamate is maintained in the UBC synaptic cleft, sufficient to modify spontaneous firing in OFF UBCs and tonically desensitize AMPARs of ON UBCs. The source of this ambient glutamate was spontaneous, spike-independent exocytosis from the MF terminal, and its level was dependent on activity of glutamate transporters EAAT1-2. Increasing levels of ambient glutamate shifted the polarity of evoked synaptic responses in ON UBCs and altered the phase of responses to in vivo-like synaptic activity. Unlike classical fast synapses, receptors at the UBC synapse are virtually always exposed to a significant level of glutamate, which varies in a graded manner during transmission.
Project description:Synaptic currents display a large degree of heterogeneity of their temporal characteristics, but the functional role of such heterogeneities remains unknown. We investigated in rat cerebellar slices synaptic currents in Unipolar Brush Cells (UBCs), which generate intrinsic mossy fibers relaying vestibular inputs to the cerebellar cortex. We show that UBCs respond to sinusoidal modulations of their sensory input with heterogeneous amplitudes and phase shifts. Experiments and modeling indicate that this variability results both from the kinetics of synaptic glutamate transients and from the diversity of postsynaptic receptors. While phase inversion is produced by an mGluR2-activated outward conductance in OFF-UBCs, the phase delay of ON UBCs is caused by a late rebound current resulting from AMPAR recovery from desensitization. Granular layer network modeling indicates that phase dispersion of UBC responses generates diverse phase coding in the granule cell population, allowing climbing-fiber-driven Purkinje cell learning at arbitrary phases of the vestibular input.