Synaptogenesis in the cerebellar cortex: Differential regulation of gephyrin and GABAA receptors at somatic and dendritic synapses of Purkinje cells

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In rodent cerebellar cortex, synaptogenesis occurs entirely postnatally, allowing study of the mechanisms of synapse formation in vivo. Here we monitored the clustering of GABAA receptors and the scaffolding protein gephyrin at GABAergic postsynaptic sites during rat cerebellar development. We found that GABAA receptors and gephyrin co-aggregate at nascent synapses in the molecular and Purkinje cell layers with a similar time course. With few exceptions, gephyrin and GABAA receptor subunits clustered selectively in front of presynaptic boutons expressing the vesicular inhibitory amino acid transporter VIAAT and no ectopic localization of these molecules was observed. Surprisingly, gephyrin clusters outlining the cell body of Purkinje cells were transient, and disappeared rapidly at the end of the second postnatal week. The loss of gephyrin from perisomatic synapses was coincident with a significant reduction in the size of GABAA receptor clusters. Furthermore, these changes were accompanied by a developmental decrease in the size of synaptic appositions, as documented by electron microscopy. These findings suggest that gephyrin takes part in the initial assembly of postsynaptic specializations and reveal an unsuspected heterogeneity in the molecular organization of the postsynaptic apparatus at somatic and dendritic synapses of mature Purkinje cells.

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