Studying Cerebellar Circuits by Remote Control of Selected Neuronal Types with GABA(A) Receptors

Front Mol Neurosci. 2009 Dec 11:2:29. doi: 10.3389/neuro.02.029.2009. eCollection 2009.


Although GABA(A) receptor-mediated inhibition of cerebellar Purkinje cells by molecular layer interneurons (MLIs) has been studied intensely at the cellular level, it has remained unclear how this inhibition regulates cerebellum-dependent behaviour. We have implemented two complementary approaches to investigate the function of the MLI-Purkinje cell synapse on the behavioural level. In the first approach we permanently disrupted inhibitory fast synaptic transmission at the synapse by genetically removing the postsynaptic GABA(A) receptors from Purkinje cells (PC-Deltagamma2 mice). We found that chronic disruption of the MLI-Purkinje cell synapse strongly impaired cerebellar learning of the vestibular occular reflex (VOR), presumably by disrupting the temporal patterns of Purkinje cell activity. However, in PC-Deltagamma2 mice the baseline VOR reflex was only mildly affected; indeed PC-Deltagamma2 mice show no ataxia or gait abnormalities, suggesting that MLI control of Purkinje cell activity is either not involved in ongoing motor tasks or that the system compensates for its loss. To investigate the latter possibility we developed an alternative genetic technique; we made the MLI-Purkinje cell synapse selectively sensitive to rapid manipulation with the GABA(A) receptor modulator zolpidem (PC-gamma2-swap mice). Minutes after intraperitoneal zolpidem injection, these PC-gamma2-swap mice developed severe motor abnormalities, revealing a substantial contribution of the MLI-Purkinje cell synapses to real time motor control. The cell-type selective permanent knockout of synaptic GABAergic input and the fast reversible modulation of GABAergic input at the same synapse illustrate how pursuing both strategies gives a fuller view.

Keywords: memory consolidation; purkinje cell; zolpidem; β-carboline; γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptor.