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PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58457. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058457. Epub 2013 Mar 7.

The output signal of Purkinje cells of the cerebellum and circadian rhythmicity.

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  • 1Neuroanatomical Department, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt/M, Germany.


Measurement of clock gene expression has recently provided evidence that the cerebellum, like the master clock in the SCN, contains a circadian oscillator. The cerebellar oscillator is involved in anticipation of mealtime and possibly resides in Purkinje cells. However, the rhythmic gene expression is likely transduced into a circadian cerebellar output signal to exert an effective control of neuronal brain circuits that are responsible for feeding behavior. Using electrophysiological recordings from acute and organotypic cerebellar slices, we tested the hypothesis whether Purkinje cells transmit a circadian modulated signal to their targets in the brain. Extracellular recordings from brain slices revealed the typical discharge pattern previously described in vivo in single cell recordings showing basically a tonic or a trimodal-like firing pattern. However, in acute sagittal cerebellar slices the average spike rate of randomly selected Purkinje cells did not exhibit significant circadian variations, irrespective of their specific firing pattern. Also, frequency and amplitude of spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents and the amplitude of GABA- and glutamate-evoked currents did not vary with circadian time. Long-term recordings using multielectrode arrays (MEA) allowed to monitor neuronal activity at multiple sites in organotypic cerebellar slices for several days to weeks. With this recording technique we observed oscillations of the firing rate of cerebellar neurons, presumably of Purkinje cells, with a period of about 24 hours which were stable for periods up to three days. The daily renewal of culture medium could induce circadian oscillations of the firing rate of Purkinje cells, a feature that is compatible with the behavior of slave oscillators. However, from the present results it appears that the circadian expression of cerebellar clock genes exerts only a weak influence on the electrical output of cerebellar neurons.

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