Granule neuron DNA damage following deafferentation in adult rats cerebellar cortex: a lesion model

Neuroscience. 2000;95(1):163-71. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(99)00397-8.


Neuronal programmed cell death is regulated by a neurotrophic supply from targets and afferent inputs. The relative contribution of each component varies according to neuronal type and age. We have previously reported that primary cultures of cerebellar granule cells undergo apoptosis when deprived of depolarising KCl concentrations, suggesting a significant role of afferent inputs in the control of cerebellar granule cells survival. This issue was investigated by setting up various in vivo lesional paradigms in order to obtain partial or total deafferentation of the cerebellar granule layer in adult rats. At different times after surgery, cerebellar sections were subjected to TUNEL staining in order to detect possible DNA damage. One week after unilateral pedunculotomy, few scattered groups of apoptotic granule neurons were observed in the homolateral hemisphere. On the contrary, total deafferentation obtained by a new experimental paradigm based on an "L-cut" lesion induced massive and widespread apoptotic death in the granule layer of the deafferentated area. The time window of DNA fragmentation in granule layer was one to seven days after the "L-cut". Selective Purkinje cell deafferentation obtained by 3-acetylpyridine injection did not result in TUNEL staining in the cerebellar cortex. The current finding that mossy fiber axotomy induces granule cell apoptotic death points out for the first time the crucial role of afferent inputs in mature granule cell survival. Moreover, the in vivo lesional model described here may prove to be an useful tool for investigating cellular and molecular mechanisms of neuronal death triggered by deafferentation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Axotomy
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebellar Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebellar Cortex / physiology*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Denervation*
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Male
  • Mesencephalon / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar