Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Determinants During the Development of Purkinje Cell Dendrites

Neuroscience. 2009 Sep 1;162(3):589-600. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.12.035. Epub 2009 Jan 1.


The peculiar shape and disposition of Purkinje cell (PC) dendrites, planar and highly branched, offers an optimal model to analyze cellular and molecular regulators for the acquisition of neuronal dendritic trees. During the first 2 weeks after the end of the proliferation period, PCs undergo a 2-phase remodeling process of their dendrites. The first phase consists in the complete retraction of the primitive but extensive dendritic tree, together with the formation of multiple filopodia-like processes arising from the cell body. In the second phase, there is a progressive disappearance of the somatic processes along with rapid growth and branching of the mature dendrite. Mature Purkinje cell dendrites bear two types of spiny protrusions, named spine and thorn. The spines are numerous, elongated, located at the distal dendritic compartment and form synapses with parallel fibers, whereas the thorns are shorter, rounded, emerge from the proximal compartment and synapse with climbing fibers. Different culture models and mutant mice analyses suggest the identification of intrinsic versus extrinsic determinants of the Purkinje cell dendritic development. The early phase of dendritic remodeling might be cell autonomous and regulated by specific transcription factors such as retinoid-related orphan receptor alpha (RORalpha). Afferent fibers, trophic factors and hormones regulate the orientation and growth of the mature dendritic tree contributing, with still unknown intrinsic factors, to sculpt its general architecture. The formation of spines appears as an intrinsic phenomenon independent of their presynaptic partner, the parallel fibers, and confined to the distal compartment by inhibitory influences of the climbing fibers along the proximal compartment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Polarity
  • Cerebellum* / cytology
  • Cerebellum* / embryology
  • Cerebellum* / growth & development
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Purkinje Cells / cytology*
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology