Morphological and electrophysiological properties of GABAergic and non-GABAergic cells in the deep cerebellar nuclei

J Neurophysiol. 2007 Jan;97(1):901-11. doi: 10.1152/jn.00974.2006. Epub 2006 Nov 8.


The deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN) integrate inputs from the brain stem, the inferior olive, and the spinal cord with Purkinje cell output from cerebellar cortex and provide the major output of the cerebellum. Despite their crucial function in motor control and learning, the various populations of neurons in the DCN are poorly defined and characterized. Importantly, differences in electrophysiological properties between glutamatergic and GABAergic cells of the DCN have been largely elusive. Here, we used glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) 67-green fluorescent protein (GFP) knock-in mice to unambiguously identify GABAergic (GAD-positive) and non-GABAergic (GAD-negative, most likely glutamatergic) neurons of the DCN. Morphological analysis of DCN neurons patch-clamped with biocytin-containing electrodes revealed a significant overlap in the distributions of the soma sizes of GAD-positive and GAD-negative cells. Compared with GAD-negative DCN neurons, GAD-positive DCN neurons fire broader action potentials, display stronger frequency accommodation, and do not reach as high firing frequencies during depolarizing current injections. Furthermore, GAD-positive cells display slower spontaneous firing rates and have a more shallow frequency-to-current relationship than the GAD-negative cells but exhibit a longer-lasting rebound depolarization and associated spiking after a transient hyperpolarization. In contrast to the rather homogeneous population of GAD-positive cells, the GAD-negative cells were found to consist of two distinct populations as defined by cell size and electrophysiological features. We conclude that GABAergic DCN neurons are specialized to convey phasic spike rate information, whereas tonic spike rate is more faithfully relayed by the large non-GABAergic cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cell Shape / physiology
  • Cerebellar Nuclei / cytology
  • Cerebellar Nuclei / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Efferent Pathways / cytology
  • Efferent Pathways / metabolism
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / genetics
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Interneurons / cytology
  • Interneurons / metabolism*
  • Lysine / analogs & derivatives
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • biocytin
  • Lysine