The assembly of neural circuits involves multiple sequential steps such as the specification of cell-types, their migration to proper brain locations, morphological and physiological differentiation, and the formation and maturation of synaptic connections. This intricate and often prolonged process is guided by elaborate genetic mechanisms that regulate each step. Evidence from numerous systems suggests that each cell-type, once specified, is endowed with a genetic program that unfolds in response to, and is regulated by, extrinsic signals, including cell-cell and synaptic interactions. To a large extent, the execution of this intrinsic program is achieved by the expression of specific sets of genes that support distinct developmental processes. Therefore, a comprehensive analysis of the developmental progression of gene expression in synaptic partners of neurons may provide a basis for exploring the genetic mechanisms regulating circuit assembly. Here we examined the developmental gene expression profiles of well-defined cell-types in a stereotyped microcircuit of the cerebellar cortex. We found that the transcriptomes of Purkinje cell and stellate/basket cells are highly dynamic throughout postnatal development. We revealed "phasic expression" of transcription factors, ion channels, receptors, cell adhesion molecules, gap junction proteins, and identified distinct molecular pathways that might contribute to sequential steps of cerebellar inhibitory circuit formation. We further revealed a correlation between genomic clustering and developmental co-expression of hundreds of transcripts, suggesting the involvement of chromatin level gene regulation during circuit formation.
Keywords: GABAergic; Purkinje cell; cerebellum; circuit assembly; development; gene expression; microcircuit; stellate basket cell.