Surface protein dynamics dictate synaptic connectivity and function in neuronal circuits. , a gene disrupted by copy number variations (CNVs) in neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum, was previously shown to regulate the surface expression of ASTN1 in glial-guided neuronal migration. Here, we demonstrate that ASTN2 binds to and regulates the surface expression of multiple synaptic proteins in postmigratory neurons by endocytosis, resulting in modulation of synaptic activity. In cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs), by immunogold electron microscopy, ASTN2 localizes primarily to endocytic and autophagocytic vesicles in the cell soma and in subsets of dendritic spines. Overexpression of ASTN2 in PCs, but not of ASTN2 lacking the FNIII domain, recurrently disrupted by CNVs in patients, including in a family presented here, increases inhibitory and excitatory postsynaptic activity and reduces levels of ASTN2 binding partners. Our data suggest a fundamental role for ASTN2 in dynamic regulation of surface proteins by endocytic trafficking and protein degradation.
Interneurons are essential to controlling excitability, timing, and synaptic integration in neuronal networks. Golgi cells (GoCs) serve these roles at the input layer of the cerebellar cortex by releasing GABA to inhibit granule cells (grcs). GoCs are excited by mossy fibers (MFs) and grcs and provide feedforward and feedback inhibition to grcs. Here we investigate two important aspects of GoC physiology: the properties of GoC dendrites and the role of calcium signaling in regulating GoC spontaneous activity. Although GoC dendrites are extensive, previous studies concluded they are devoid of voltage-gated ion channels. Hence, the current view holds that somatic voltage signals decay passively within GoC dendrites, and grc synapses onto distal dendrites are not amplified and are therefore ineffective at firing GoCs because of strong passive attenuation. Using whole-cell recording and calcium imaging in rat slices, we find that dendritic voltage-gated sodium channels allow somatic action potentials to activate voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs) along the entire dendritic length, with R-type and T-type VGCCs preferentially located distally. We show that R- and T-type VGCCs located in the dendrites can boost distal synaptic inputs and promote burst firing. Active dendrites are thus critical to the regulation of GoC activity, and consequently, to the processing of input to the cerebellar cortex. In contrast, we find that N-type channels are preferentially located near the soma, and control the frequency and pattern of spontaneous firing through their close association with calcium-activated potassium (KCa) channels. Thus, VGCC types are differentially distributed and serve specialized functions within GoCs. Interneurons are essential to neural processing because they modulate excitability, timing, and synaptic integration within circuits. At the input layer of the cerebellar cortex, a single type of interneuron, the Golgi cell (GoC), carries these functions. The extent of inhibition depends on both spontaneous activity of GoCs and the excitatory synaptic input they receive. In this study, we find that different types of calcium channels are differentially distributed, with dendritic calcium channels being activated by somatic activity, boosting synaptic inputs and enabling bursting, and somatic calcium cannels promoting regular firing. We therefore challenge the current view that GoC dendrites are passive and identify the mechanisms that contribute to GoCs regulating the flow of sensory information in the cerebellar cortex.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are highly prevalent neurodevelopmental disorders, but the underlying pathogenesis remains poorly understood. Recent studies have implicated the cerebellum in these disorders, with post-mortem studies in ASD patients showing cerebellar Purkinje cell (PC) loss, and isolated cerebellar injury has been associated with a higher incidence of ASDs. However, the extent of cerebellar contribution to the pathogenesis of ASDs remains unclear. Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a genetic disorder with high rates of comorbid ASDs that result from mutation of either TSC1 or TSC2, whose protein products dimerize and negatively regulate mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signalling. TSC is an intriguing model to investigate the cerebellar contribution to the underlying pathogenesis of ASDs, as recent studies in TSC patients demonstrate cerebellar pathology and correlate cerebellar pathology with increased ASD symptomatology. Functional imaging also shows that TSC patients with ASDs display hypermetabolism in deep cerebellar structures, compared to TSC patients without ASDs. However, the roles of Tsc1 and the sequelae of Tsc1 dysfunction in the cerebellum have not been investigated so far. Here we show that both heterozygous and homozygous loss of Tsc1 in mouse cerebellar PCs results in autistic-like behaviours, including abnormal social interaction, repetitive behaviour and vocalizations, in addition to decreased PC excitability. Treatment of mutant mice with the mTOR inhibitor, rapamycin, prevented the pathological and behavioural deficits. These findings demonstrate new roles for Tsc1 in PC function and define a molecular basis for a cerebellar contribution to cognitive disorders such as autism.
This protocol describes a series of approaches to measure feedforward inhibition in acute brain slices from the cerebellar cortex. Using whole-cell voltage and current clamp recordings from Purkinje cells in conjunction with electrical stimulation of the parallel fibers, these methods demonstrate how to measure the relationship between excitation and inhibition in a feedforward circuit. This protocol also describes how to measure the impact of feedforward inhibition on Purkinje cell excitability, with an emphasis on spike timing.