Distribution of zebrin-immunoreactive Purkinje cell terminals in the cerebellar and vestibular nuclei of birds



Zebrin II (aldolase C) is expressed in a subset of Purkinje cells in the mammalian and avian cerebella such that there is a characteristic parasagittal organization of zebrin-immunopositive stripes alternating with zebrin-immunonegative stripes. Zebrin is expressed not only in the soma and dendrites of Purkinje cells but also in their axonal terminals. Here we describe the distribution of zebrin immunoreactivity in both the vestibular and the cerebellar nuclei of pigeons (Columba livia) and hummingbirds (Calypte anna, Selasphorus rufus). In the medial cerebellar nucleus, zebrin-positive labeling was particularly heavy in the “shell,” whereas the “core” was zebrin negative. In the lateral cerebellar nucleus, labeling was not as heavy, but a positive shell and negative core were also observed. In the vestibular nuclear complex, zebrin-positive terminal labeling was heavy in the dorsolateral vestibular nucleus and the lateral margin of the superior vestibular nucleus. The central and medial regions of the superior nucleus were generally zebrin negative. Labeling was moderate to heavy in the medial vestibular nucleus, particulary the rostral half of the parvocellular subnucleus. A moderate amount of zebrin-positive labeling was present in the descending vestibular nucleus: this was heaviest laterally, and the central region was generally zebrin negative. Zebrin-positive terminals were also observed in the the cerebellovestibular process, prepositus hypoglossi, and lateral tangential nucleus. We discuss our findings in light of similar studies in rats and with respect to the corticonuclear projections to the cerebellar nuclei and the functional connections of the vestibulocerebellum with the vestibular nuclei. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:1532–1546, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.