Cellular and genetic regulation of the development of the cerebellar system

Prog Neurobiol. 2004 Apr;72(5):295-339. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2004.03.004.


Recent advances in molecular biology have drastically changed our vision on the development of the nervous system, the cerebellum in particular. After a classical descriptive period, we are now in a modern mechanistic epoch as we begin to answer crucial questions in our quest to understand the mechanisms underlying the emergence of brain complexity. This review begins with an analysis of the role of the "isthmic organizer" in the induction and specification of the cerebellar territory and progresses through cerebellar development to the formation of cerebellar maps. It gathers information about the control of the proliferation of granule cell precursors by Purkinje cells and the role of Shh/Gli-patched signaling. The migratory routes for cerebellar and precerebellar neurons, together with the long-range and short-range cues guiding gliophilic and, particularly, neurophilic migrations, are also discussed. Because these cues are similar to those involved in axon guidance, both processes are under the same molecular constraints. Finally, using primarily the olivocerebellar projection as a model, the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the formation of cerebellar maps are discussed. During embryonic development, Purkinje cells in the cerebellum and neurons in the inferior olive follow a simultaneous, but independent, process of intrinsic parcellation, giving rise to subsets of biochemically different cortical compartments. The occurrence of positional information shared between olivary axons and their postsynaptic targets, the Purkinje cells, provides a molecular code for the formation of coarse-grained maps. Activity-dependent mechanisms are required for the transition from crude to fine-grained maps. This important refinement, which confers ultimate specificity to the maps, is under the regulation of parallel fiber-Purkinje cell synaptic activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena*
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Cerebellum / embryology
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Biology / methods
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins