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Brain Res. 1979 May 18;168(1):75-95.

Neurochemical and morphological consequences of axon terminal degeneration in cerebellar deep nuclei of mice with inherited Purkinje cell degeneration.


The concentrations of free amino acids and the activities of transmitter-related enzymes, glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), choline acetylase (ChAC) and GABA-transaminase (GABA-t) were measured in cerebellar cortex and deep cerebellar nuclei from the mouse mutant Purkinje cell degeneration (pcd) at various times before and after Purkinje cell loss. Axosomatic synapses on target cells in pcd deep nuclei were quantified by electron microscopy during and after degeneration. The concentration of GABA (nmol/mg wet weight), the Purkinje cell transmitter, was normal in pcd cerebellar cortex and deep nuclei before onset of Purkinje cell degeneration on postnatal day 15. Just after the major period of Purkinje cell loss in cerebellar cortex, GABA concentration was unchanged in the cortical layers but fell to 50% of normal values in the deep nuclei of pcd animals killed either by decapitation or by microwave irradiation. No other measured free amino acid decreased. There were no long-term increases following Purkinje cell degeneration in the concentration of any transmitter amino acids or related enzymes, GAD, ChAC or GABA-t, and thus no indication of axonal sprouting reactions. Progressive losses occurred in wet weight and protein and in activity of GABA-t in both the cerebellar cortex and the deep nuclei of pcd animals. Electron microscopic analysis indicated that Purkinje cell axon terminals contact 30% or more of the somatic surface of principal neurons of the lateral nucleus of the normal cerebellum, but only about 2% of the corresponding sites in the pcd cerebellum. Glial leaflets, rather than other synaptic terminals take their place. Axon terminals may degenerate earlier than Purkinje somata in the pcd disease.

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