Regional differences in Purkinje cell morphology in the cerebellar vermis of male mice

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Abstract

Regional differences in dendritic architecture can influence connectivity and dendritic signal integration, with possible consequences for neuronal computation. In the cerebellum, analyses of Purkinje cells (PCs), which are functionally critical as they provide the sole output of the cerebellar cortex, have suggested that the cerebellar cortex is not uniform in structure as traditionally assumed. However, the limitations of traditional staining methods and microscopy capabilities have presented difficulties in investigating possible local variations in PC morphology. To address this question, we used male mice expressing green fluorescent protein selectively in PCs. Using Neurolucida 360 with confocal image stacks, we reconstructed dendritic arbors of PCs residing in lobule V (anterior) and lobule IX (posterior) of the vermis. We then analyzed morphologies of individual arbors and the structure of the assembled “jungle,” comparing these features across anatomical locations and age groups. Strikingly, we found that in lobule IX, half of the reconstructed PCs had two primary dendrites emanating from their soma, whereas fewer than a quarter showed this characteristic in lobule V. Furthermore, PCs in lobule V showed more efficient spatial occupancy compared to lobule IX, as well as greater packing density and increased arbor overlap in the adult. When analyzing complete ensembles of PC arbors, we also observed “hot spots” of increased dendritic density in lobule V, whereas lobule IX showed a more homogeneous spread of dendrites. These differences suggest that input patterns and/or physiology of PCs could likewise differ along the vermis, with possible implications for cerebellar function.

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