Electron microscopic analysis of postnatal histogenesis in the cerebellar cortex of staggerer mutant mice

J Comp Neurol. 1978 Jun 15;179(4):831-63. doi: 10.1002/cne.901790408.


Postnatal development of the cerebellar cortex has been compared in staggerer mutant and unaffected littermate mice. From postnatal day 3 to about day 21 the external granular layer in staggerer mice is decreased in thickness and area, and the number of postmitotic granule cell neurons is reduced. Those granule cells that are generated seem to differentiate normally, with the remarkable exception that they form only primitive junctions with Purkinje cell dendritic shafts. These specialized junctions are not superseded by the normal parallel fiber:Purkinje spine synapses and disappear by the third week. Purkinje cell somata and dendrites are smaller than normal at all stages examined. The dendrites are not confined to the sagittal plane as in the normal and, unique among mutant or other animals described to date, they exhibit virtually no branchlet spines. All other cortical synaptic relations of granule and Purkinje cells, including climbing fiber:Purkinje spine synapses, appear qualitatively normal. However, by 28 days virtually all staggerer granule cells have degenerated. While the primary genetic defect remains unknown, we postulate that the morphological abnormalities may be attributable to a block in the normal developmental relationship between granule cells and Purkinje cells. The small cell size and failure to form branchlet spines suggest that the Purkinje cell abnormality may be closer to the primary effect of the mutant gene than the more flagrant hypoplasia and degeneration of granule cell neurons.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Movement
  • Cerebellar Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebellar Cortex / growth & development*
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL / genetics
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL / growth & development*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mutation
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Purkinje Cells / cytology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure