The basilar pontine nucleus (PN) is the key relay point for the cerebrocerebellar link. However, the projection pattern of pontocerebellar mossy fiber axons, which is essential in determining the functional organization of the cerebellar cortex, has not been fully clarified. We reconstructed the entire trajectory of 25 single pontocerebellar mossy fiber axons labeled by localized injection of biotinylated dextran amine into various locations in the PN and mapped all their terminals in an unfolded scheme of the cerebellum in 10 mice. The majority of axons (20/25 axons) entered the cerebellum through the middle cerebellar peduncle contralateral to the origin, while others entered through the ipsilateral pathway. A small number of axons (1/25 axons) had collaterals terminating in the cerebellar nuclei. Axons projected mostly to a combination of lobules, often bilaterally, and terminated in multiple zebrin (aldolase C) stripes, more frequently in zebrin-positive stripes (83.9%) than in zebrin-negative stripes, with 66.5 mossy fiber terminals on the average. Axons originating from the rostral (plus medial and lateral), central and caudal PN mainly terminated in the paraflocculus, crus I and lobule VIb-c, in the simplex lobule, crus II and paramedian lobule, and in lobules II-VIa, VIII and copula pyramidis, respectively. The results suggest that the interlobular branching pattern of pontocerebellar axons determines the group of cerebellar lobules that are involved in a related functional localization of the cerebellum. In the hemisphere, crus I may be functionally distinct from neighboring lobules (simple lobule and crus II) in the mouse cerebellum based on the pontocerebellar axonal projection pattern.
Keywords: RRID:AB_2313920; aldolase C; axonal reconstruction; biotinylated dextran amine; cerebellar cortex; cerebellar mossy fibers; cerebellar nuclei; cerebellum; pontine nucleus; zebrin.
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