Effects of Transforming Growth Factor Beta 1 in Cerebellar Development: Role in Synapse Formation

Front Cell Neurosci. 2016 Apr 27;10:104. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2016.00104. eCollection 2016.


Granule cells (GC) are the most numerous glutamatergic neurons in the cerebellar cortex and represent almost half of the neurons of the central nervous system. Despite recent advances, the mechanisms of how the glutamatergic synapses are formed in the cerebellum remain unclear. Among the TGF-β family, TGF-beta 1 (TGF-β1) has been described as a synaptogenic molecule in invertebrates and in the vertebrate peripheral nervous system. A recent paper from our group demonstrated that TGF-β1 increases the excitatory synapse formation in cortical neurons. Here, we investigated the role of TGF-β1 in glutamatergic cerebellar neurons. We showed that the expression profile of TGF-β1 and its receptor, TβRII, in the cerebellum is consistent with a role in synapse formation in vitro and in vivo. It is low in the early postnatal days (P1-P9), increases after postnatal day 12 (P12), and remains high until adulthood (P30). We also found that granule neurons express the TGF-β receptor mRNA and protein, suggesting that they may be responsive to the synaptogenic effect of TGF-β1. Treatment of granular cell cultures with TGF-β1 increased the number of glutamatergic excitatory synapses by 100%, as shown by immunocytochemistry assays for presynaptic (synaptophysin) and post-synaptic (PSD-95) proteins. This effect was dependent on TβRI activation because addition of a pharmacological inhibitor of TGF-β, SB-431542, impaired the formation of synapses between granular neurons. Together, these findings suggest that TGF-β1 has a specific key function in the cerebellum through regulation of excitatory synapse formation between granule neurons.

Keywords: TGF-β1; cerebellum; development; excitatory synapse.