Cellular and molecular control of dendritic growth and development of cerebellar Purkinje cells

Prog Histochem Cytochem. 2004;39(3):131-82. doi: 10.1016/j.proghi.2004.07.002.


Purkinje cells are the principal neurons of the cerebellar cortex and are characterized by a large and highly branched dendritic tree. For this reason, they have for a long time been an attractive model system to study the regulation of dendritic growth and differentiation. In this article, I will first review studies on different aspects of Purkinje cell dendritic development and then go on to present studies which have aimed at experimentally altering Purkinje cell dendritic development. Some of the cellular and molecular mechanisms which have been shown by these studies to be important determinants of Purkinje cell dendritic development will be discussed, in particular the role of the parallel fiber input, of hormones, and of neuronal growth factors. The organotypic slice culture method will be introduced as an important experimental tool to study Purkinje cell dendritic development under controlled conditions. Using cerebellar slice cultures, protein kinase C (PKC) has been identified as a major determinant of Purkinje cell dendritic development and the contribution of specific isoforms of PKC will be discussed. Finally, it will be shown that Purkinje cell dendritic development in slice cultures does not depend on the activation of glutamate receptors and appears to be independent of the presence of the neurotrophin BDNF. These studies indicate that the initial outgrowth of the Purkinje cell dendritic tree can occur in the absence of signals derived from afferent fibers, but is under control of PKC signaling.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebellar Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebellar Cortex / metabolism
  • Dendrites / metabolism*
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Molecular Biology / methods*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Progesterone / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase C / deficiency
  • Protein Kinase C / genetics
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase C / pharmacology
  • Purkinje Cells / cytology
  • Purkinje Cells / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Glutamate / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Thyroid Hormones / metabolism


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Estrogens
  • Isoenzymes
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Progesterone
  • Protein Kinase C