Plasticity of the parallel fiber-Purkinje cell synapse by spine takeover and new synapse formation in the adult rat

Brain Res. 1982 May 27;240(2):205-20. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(82)90217-7.


Alteration in synaptic connectivity between Purkinje cell spines and parallel fibers of the cerebellum were studied following partial deafferentation of Purkinje cells in the the adult rat. Transection of parallel fibers by two lesions placed at a 1 mm interval on the folial crest were used to produce degeneration of these afferents. Ultrastructural analysis of synapses on Purkinje cell spines revealed degeneration with vacating of postsynaptic sites within 6 h. Reactive synaptogenesis as takeover of Purkinje cell spines by formation of new synapses from remaining parallel fibers occurred even before degenerating parallel fibers had vacated postsynaptic sites. This was accompanied by a marked increase in the number of dual innervations by reactive parallel fibers within one day. Some vacated postsynaptic sites were lost as indicated by a reduction in the number of synapses and others may have been taken over by newly formed synapses on spines. In addition, new synapses formed between the shafts of Purkinje cell branchlets and parallel fibers. Sprouting of parallel fibers occurred as small extensions without tubules while Purkinje cell spines reacted by forming elongated and multiple heads which contacted different parallel fibers. After 5 days degenerating boutons were rarely found. Enlarged spine heads were each capped by a proportionally enlarged parallel fiber bouton and joined by an elongated synaptic junction to parallel fibers. Some parallel fiber boutons were greatly enlarged and capped numerous profiles of spines. This study shows that formation of new pre- and postsynaptic sites takes precedence over reoccupation of original contacts and that multiple synapses on individual spines are being eliminated to give rise to single contacts with boutons. This elimination resulted in enlargement of synaptic contact areas between Purkinje cell spines and parallel fibers by taking over postsynaptic sites from some vacated and eliminated boutons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Female
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology*
  • Purkinje Cells / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure