Cerebellar function is regulated by cholinergic mossy fiber inputs that are primarily derived from the medial vestibular nucleus (MVN) and prepositus hypoglossi nucleus (PHN). In contrast to the growing evidence surrounding cholinergic transmission and its functional significance in the cerebellum, the intrinsic and synaptic properties of cholinergic projection neurons (ChPNs) have not been clarified. In this study, we generated choline acetyltransferase (ChAT)-tdTomato transgenic rats, which specifically express the fluorescent protein tdTomato in cholinergic neurons, and used them to investigate the response properties of ChPNs identified via retrograde labeling using whole-cell recordings in brainstem slices. In response to current pulses, ChPNs exhibited two afterhyperpolarisation (AHP) profiles and three firing patterns; the predominant AHP and firing properties differed between the MVN and PHN. Morphologically, the ChPNs were separated into two types based on their soma size and dendritic extensions. Analyses of the firing responses to time-varying sinusoidal current stimuli revealed that ChPNs exhibited different firing modes depending on the input frequencies. The maximum frequencies in which each firing mode was observed were different between the neurons that exhibited distinct firing patterns. Analyses of the current responses to the application of neurotransmitter receptor agonists revealed that the ChPNs expressed (i) AMPA- and NMDA-type glutamate receptors, (ii) GABAA and glycine receptors, and (iii) muscarinic and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. The current responses mediated by these receptors of MVN ChPNs were not different from those of PHN ChPNs. These findings suggest that ChPNs receive various synaptic inputs and encode those inputs appropriately across different frequencies.
Keywords: afterhyperpolarisation; eye movement whole-cell recording; firing pattern.
© 2014 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.