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Cerebellum. 2013 Aug;12(4):493-503. doi: 10.1007/s12311-013-0456-0.

The reciprocal cerebellar circuitry in human hereditary ataxia.

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Research Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 113 Holland Ave, Albany, NY 12208, USA.


Clinicoanatomic correlation in the spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA) and Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is difficult as these diseases differentially affect multiple sites in the central and peripheral nervous systems. A new way to study cerebellar ataxia is the systematic analysis of the "reciprocal cerebellar circuitry" that consists of tightly organized reciprocal connections between Purkinje cells, dentate nuclei (DN), and inferior olivary nuclei (ION). This circuitry is similar to but not identical with the "cerebellar module" in experimental animals. Neurohumoral transmitters operating in the circuitry are both inhibitory (γ-aminobutyric acid in corticonuclear and dentato-olivary fibers) and excitatory (glutamate in olivocerebellar or climbing fibers). Glutamatergic climbing fibers also issue collaterals to the DN. The present study applied five immunohistochemical markers in six types of SCA (1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 17), genetically undefined SCA, FRDA, and FRDA carriers to identify interruptions within the circuitry: calbindin-D28k, neuron-specific enolase, glutamic acid decarboxylase, and vesicular glutamate transporters 1 and 2. Lesions of the cerebellar cortex, DN, and ION were scored according to a guide as 0 (normal), 1 (mild), 2 (moderate), and 3 (severe). Results of each of the five immunohistochemical stains were examined separately for each of the three regions. Combining scores of each anatomical region and each stain yielded a total score as an indicator of pathological severity. Total scores ranged from 16 to 38 in SCA-1 (nine cases); 22 to 39 in SCA-2 (six cases); 9 to 15 in SCA-3 (four cases); and 13 and 25 in SCA-6 (two cases). In single cases of SCA-7 and SCA-17, scores were 16 and 31, respectively. In two genetically undefined SCA, scores were 36 and 37, respectively. In nine cases of FRDA, total scores ranged from 11 to 19. The low scores in SCA-3 and FRDA reflect selective atrophy of the DN. The FRDA carriers did not differ from normal controls. These observations offer a semiquantitative assessment of the critical role of the DN in the ataxic phenotype of SCA and FRDA while other parts of the circuitry appear less important.

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