In vivo cerebellar circuit function is disrupted in an mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
ABSTRACT: Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a debilitating and ultimately lethal disease involving progressive muscle degeneration and neurological dysfunction. DMD is caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene, which result in extremely low or total loss of dystrophin protein expression. In the brain, dystrophin is heavily localized to cerebellar Purkinje cells, which control motor and non-motor functions. In vitro experiments in mouse Purkinje cells revealed that loss of dystrophin leads to low firing rates and high spiking variability. However, it is still unclear how the loss of dystrophin affects cerebellar function in the intact brain. Here, we used in vivo electrophysiology to record Purkinje cells and cerebellar nuclear neurons in awake and anesthetized female mdx (also known as Dmd) mice. Purkinje cell simple spike firing rate is significantly lower in mdx mice compared to controls. Although simple spike firing regularity is not affected, complex spike regularity is increased in mdx mutants. Mean firing rate in cerebellar nuclear neurons is not altered in mdx mice, but their local firing pattern is irregular. Based on the relatively well-preserved cytoarchitecture in the mdx cerebellum, our data suggest that faulty signals across the circuit between Purkinje cells and cerebellar nuclei drive the abnormal firing activity. The in vivo requirements of dystrophin during cerebellar circuit communication could help explain the motor and cognitive anomalies seen in individuals with DMD.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.
Project description:Neurons in the cerebellar nuclei (CN) receive inhibitory inputs from Purkinje cells in the cerebellar cortex and provide the major output from the cerebellum, but their computational function is not well understood. It has recently been shown that the spike activity of Purkinje cells is more regular than previously assumed and that this regularity can affect motor behaviour. We use a conductance-based model of a CN neuron to study the effect of the regularity of Purkinje cell spiking on CN neuron activity. We find that increasing the irregularity of Purkinje cell activity accelerates the CN neuron spike rate and that the mechanism of this recoding of input irregularity as output spike rate depends on the number of Purkinje cells converging onto a CN neuron. For high convergence ratios, the irregularity induced spike rate acceleration depends on short-term depression (STD) at the Purkinje cell synapses. At low convergence ratios, or for synchronised Purkinje cell input, the firing rate increase is independent of STD. The transformation of input irregularity into output spike rate occurs in response to artificial input spike trains as well as to spike trains recorded from Purkinje cells in tottering mice, which show highly irregular spiking patterns. Our results suggest that STD may contribute to the accelerated CN spike rate in tottering mice and they raise the possibility that the deficits in motor control in these mutants partly result as a pathological consequence of this natural form of plasticity.
Project description:Feedforward excitatory and inhibitory circuits regulate cerebellar output, but how these circuits interact to shape the somatodendritic excitability of Purkinje cells during motor behaviour remains unresolved. Here we perform dendritic and somatic patch-clamp recordings in vivo combined with optogenetic silencing of interneurons to investigate how dendritic excitation and inhibition generates bidirectional (that is, increased or decreased) Purkinje cell output during self-paced locomotion. We find that granule cells generate a sustained depolarization of Purkinje cell dendrites during movement, which is counterbalanced by variable levels of feedforward inhibition from local interneurons. Subtle differences in the dendritic excitation-inhibition balance generate robust, bidirectional changes in simple spike (SSp) output. Disrupting this balance by selectively silencing molecular layer interneurons results in unidirectional firing rate changes, increased SSp regularity and disrupted locomotor behaviour. Our findings provide a mechanistic understanding of how feedforward excitatory and inhibitory circuits shape Purkinje cell output during motor behaviour.
Project description:In Parkinson's disease, the degeneration of the midbrain dopaminergic neurons is consistently associated with modified metabolic activity in the cerebellum. Here we examined the functional reorganization taking place in the cerebello-cerebral circuit in a murine model of Parkinson's disease with 6-OHDA lesion of midbrain dopaminergic neurons. Cerebellar optogenetic stimulations evoked similar movements in control and lesioned mice, suggesting a normal coupling of cerebellum to the motor effectors after the lesion. In freely moving animals, the firing rate in the primary motor cortex was decreased after the lesion, while cerebellar nuclei neurons showed an increased firing rate. This increase may result from reduced inhibitory Purkinje cells inputs, since a population of slow and irregular Purkinje cells was observed in the cerebellar hemispheres of lesioned animals. Moreover, cerebellar stimulations generated smaller electrocortical responses in the motor cortex of lesioned animals suggesting a weaker cerebello-cerebral coupling. Overall these results indicate the presence of functional changes in the cerebello-cerebral circuit, but their ability to correct cortical dysfunction may be limited due to functional uncoupling between the cerebellum and cerebral cortex.
Project description:Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a severe muscle-wasting disease caused by mutations in the DMD gene encoding dystrophin, expressed mainly in muscles but also in other tissues like retina and brain. Non-progressing cognitive dysfunction occurs in 20 to 50% of DMD patients. Furthermore, loss of expression of the Dp427 dystrophin isoform in the brain of mdx mice, the most used animal model of DMD, leads to behavioral deficits thought to be linked to insufficiencies in synaptogenesis and channel clustering at synapses. Mdx mice where the locomotor phenotype is mild also display a high and maladaptive response to stress. Recently, we generated Dmdmdx rats carrying an out-of frame mutation in exon 23 of the DMD gene and exhibiting a skeletal and cardiac muscle phenotype similar to DMD patients. In order to evaluate the impact of dystrophin loss on behavior, we explored locomotion parameters as well as anhedonia, anxiety and response to stress, in Dmdmdx rats aged from 1.5 to 7 months, in comparison to wild-type (WT) littermates. Pattern of dystrophin expression in the brain of WT and Dmdmdx rats was characterized by western-blot analyses and immunohistochemistry. We showed that dystrophin-deficient Dmdmdx rats displayed motor deficits in the beam test, without association with depressive or anxiety-like phenotype. However, Dmdmdx rats exhibited a strong response to restraint-induced stress, with a large increase in freezings frequency and duration, suggesting an alteration in a functional circuit including the amygdala. In brain, large dystrophin isoform Dp427 was not expressed in mutant animals. Dmdmdx rat is therefore a good animal model for preclinical evaluations of new treatments for DMD but care must be taken with their responses to mild stress.
Project description:Inhibitory interneurons in the cerebellar granular layer are more heterogeneous than traditionally depicted. In contrast to Golgi cells, which are ubiquitously distributed in the granular layer, small fusiform Lugaro cells and globular cells are located underneath the Purkinje cell layer and small in number. Globular cells have not been characterized physiologically. Here, using cerebellar slices obtained from a strain of gene-manipulated mice expressing GFP specifically in GABAergic neurons, we morphologically identified globular cells, and compared their synaptic activity and monoaminergic influence of their electrical activity with those of small Golgi cells and small fusiform Lugaro cells. Globular cells were characterized by prominent IPSCs together with monosynaptic inputs from the axon collaterals of Purkinje cells, whereas small Golgi cells or small fusiform Lugaro cells displayed fewer and smaller spontaneous IPSCs. Globular cells were silent at rest and fired spike discharges in response to application of either serotonin (5-HT) or noradrenaline. The two monoamines also facilitated small Golgi cell firing, but only 5-HT elicited firing in small fusiform Lugaro cells. Furthermore, globular cells likely received excitatory monosynaptic inputs through mossy fibers. Because globular cells project their axons long in the transversal direction, the neuronal circuit that includes interplay between Purkinje cells and globular cells could regulate Purkinje cell activity in different microzones under the influence of monoamines and mossy fiber inputs, suggesting that globular cells likely play a unique modulatory role in cerebellar motor control.
Project description:Cerebellar Purkinje cells mediate accurate eye movement coordination. However, it remains unclear how oculomotor adaptation depends on the interplay between the characteristic Purkinje cell response patterns, namely tonic, bursting, and spike pauses. Here, a spiking cerebellar model assesses the role of Purkinje cell firing patterns in vestibular ocular reflex (VOR) adaptation. The model captures the cerebellar microcircuit properties and it incorporates spike-based synaptic plasticity at multiple cerebellar sites. A detailed Purkinje cell model reproduces the three spike-firing patterns that are shown to regulate the cerebellar output. Our results suggest that pauses following Purkinje complex spikes (bursts) encode transient disinhibition of target medial vestibular nuclei, critically gating the vestibular signals conveyed by mossy fibres. This gating mechanism accounts for early and coarse VOR acquisition, prior to the late reflex consolidation. In addition, properly timed and sized Purkinje cell bursts allow the ratio between long-term depression and potentiation (LTD/LTP) to be finely shaped at mossy fibre-medial vestibular nuclei synapses, which optimises VOR consolidation. Tonic Purkinje cell firing maintains the consolidated VOR through time. Importantly, pauses are crucial to facilitate VOR phase-reversal learning, by reshaping previously learnt synaptic weight distributions. Altogether, these results predict that Purkinje spike burst-pause dynamics are instrumental to VOR learning and reversal adaptation.
Project description:Cerebellar circuits are patterned into an array of topographic parasagittal domains called zones. The proper connectivity of zones is critical for motor coordination and motor learning, and in several neurological diseases cerebellar circuits degenerate in zonal patterns. Despite recent advances in understanding zone function, we still have a limited understanding of how zones are formed. Here, we focused our attention on Purkinje cells to gain a better understanding of their specific role in establishing zonal circuits. We used conditional mouse genetics to test the hypothesis that Purkinje cell neurotransmission is essential for refining prefunctional developmental zones into sharp functional zones. Our results show that inhibitory synaptic transmission in Purkinje cells is necessary for the precise patterning of Purkinje cell zones and the topographic targeting of mossy fiber afferents. As expected, blocking Purkinje cell neurotransmission caused ataxia. Using in vivo electrophysiology, we demonstrate that loss of Purkinje cell communication altered the firing rate and pattern of their target cerebellar nuclear neurons. Analysis of Purkinje cell complex spike firing revealed that feedback in the cerebellar nuclei to inferior olive to Purkinje cell loop is obstructed. Loss of Purkinje neurotransmission also caused ectopic zonal expression of tyrosine hydroxylase, which is only expressed in adult Purkinje cells when calcium is dysregulated and if excitability is altered. Our results suggest that Purkinje cell inhibitory neurotransmission establishes the functional circuitry of the cerebellum by patterning the molecular zones, fine-tuning afferent circuitry, and shaping neuronal activity.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Purkinje cells play a central role in establishing the cerebellar circuit. Accordingly, disrupting Purkinje cell development impairs cerebellar morphogenesis and motor function. In the Car8wdl mouse model of hereditary ataxia, severe motor deficits arise despite the cerebellum overcoming initial defects in size and morphology. METHODS:To resolve how this compensation occurs, we asked how the loss of carbonic anhydrase 8 (CAR8), a regulator of IP3R1 Ca2+ signaling in Purkinje cells, alters cerebellar development in Car8wdl mice. Using a combination of histological, physiological, and behavioral analyses, we determined the extent to which the loss of CAR8 affects cerebellar anatomy, neuronal firing, and motor coordination during development. RESULTS:Our results reveal that granule cell proliferation is reduced in early postnatal mutants, although by the third postnatal week there is enhanced and prolonged proliferation, plus an upregulation of Sox2 expression in the inner EGL. Modified circuit patterning of Purkinje cells and Bergmann glia accompany these granule cell adjustments. We also find that although anatomy eventually normalizes, the abnormal activity of neurons and muscles persists. CONCLUSIONS:Our data show that losing CAR8 only transiently restricts cerebellar growth, but permanently damages its function. These data support two current hypotheses about cerebellar development and disease: (1) Sox2 expression may be upregulated at sites of injury and contribute to the rescue of cerebellar structure and (2) transient delays to developmental processes may precede permanent motor dysfunction. Furthermore, we characterize waddles mutant mouse morphology and behavior during development and propose a Sox2-positive, cell-mediated role for rescue in a mouse model of human motor diseases.
Project description:Disruptions of the FOXP2 gene cause a speech and language disorder involving difficulties in sequencing orofacial movements. FOXP2 is expressed in cortico-striatal and cortico-cerebellar circuits important for fine motor skills, and affected individuals show abnormalities in these brain regions. We selectively disrupted Foxp2 in the cerebellar Purkinje cells, striatum or cortex of mice and assessed the effects on skilled motor behaviour using an operant lever-pressing task. Foxp2 loss in each region impacted behaviour differently, with striatal and Purkinje cell disruptions affecting the variability and the speed of lever-press sequences, respectively. Mice lacking Foxp2 in Purkinje cells showed a prominent phenotype involving slowed lever pressing as well as deficits in skilled locomotion. In vivo recordings from Purkinje cells uncovered an increased simple spike firing rate and decreased modulation of firing during limb movements. This was caused by increased intrinsic excitability rather than changes in excitatory or inhibitory inputs. Our findings show that Foxp2 can modulate different aspects of motor behaviour in distinct brain regions, and uncover an unknown role for Foxp2 in the modulation of Purkinje cell activity that severely impacts skilled movements.
Project description:Loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding the postsynaptic scaffolding protein SHANK2 are a highly penetrant cause of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) involving cerebellum-related motor problems. Recent studies have implicated cerebellar pathology in the aetiology of ASD. Here we evaluate the possibility that cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs) represent a critical locus of ASD-like pathophysiology in mice lacking Shank2. Absence of Shank2 impairs both PC intrinsic plasticity and induction of long-term potentiation at the parallel fibre to PC synapse. Moreover, inhibitory input onto PCs is significantly enhanced, most prominently in the posterior lobe where simple spike (SS) regularity is most affected. Using PC-specific Shank2 knockouts, we replicate alterations of SS regularity in vivo and establish cerebellar dependence of ASD-like behavioural phenotypes in motor learning and social interaction. These data highlight the importance of Shank2 for PC function, and support a model by which cerebellar pathology is prominent in certain forms of ASD.