Morphogenesis and regulation of Bergmann glial processes during Purkinje cell dendritic spine ensheathment and synaptogenesis

Glia. 2008 Oct;56(13):1463-77. doi: 10.1002/glia.20712.


Astrocytes have an important role in synaptic formation and function but how astrocytic processes become associated with synaptic structures during development is not well understood. Here we analyzed the pattern of growth of the processes extending off the main Bergmann glial (BG) shafts during synaptogenesis in the cerebellum. We found that during this period, BG process outgrowth was correlated with increased ensheathment of dendritic spines. In addition, two-photon time-lapse imaging revealed that BG processes were highly dynamic, and processes became more stable as the period of spine ensheathment progressed. While process motility was dependent on actin polymerization, activity of cytoskeletal regulators Rac1 and RhoG did not play a role in glial process dynamics or density, but was critical for maintaining process length. We extended this finding to probe the relationship between process morphology and ensheathment, finding that shortened processes result in decreased coverage of the spine. Furthermore, we found that areas in which BG expressed dn-Rac1, and therefore had a lower level of synaptic ensheathment, showed an overall increase in synapse number. These analyses reveal how BG processes grow to surround synaptic structures, elucidate the importance of BG process structure for proper development of synaptic ensheathment, and reveal a role for ensheathment in synapse formation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Morphogenesis / physiology*
  • Neuroglia / cytology
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Purkinje Cells / cytology
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure