Parcellation of cerebellins 1, 2, and 4 among different subpopulations of dorsal horn neurons in mouse spinal cord

Authors

  • Michael C. Cagle,

    1. Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tennessee
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  • Marcia G. Honig

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tennessee
    • Correspondence to: Dr. Marcia Honig, Ph.D., Dept. of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, 855 Monroe Ave., Memphis, TN 38163. E-mail: mhonig@uthsc.edu

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ABSTRACT

The cerebellins (Cblns) are a family of secreted proteins that are widely expressed throughout the nervous system, but whose functions have been studied only in the cerebellum and striatum. Two members of the family, Cbln1 and Cbln2, bind to neurexins on presynaptic terminals and to GluRδs postsynaptically, forming trans-synaptic triads that promote synapse formation. Cbln1 has a higher binding affinity for GluRδs and exhibits greater synaptogenic activity than Cbln2. In contrast, Cbln4 does not form such triads and its function is unknown. The different properties of the three Cblns suggest that each plays a distinct role in synapse formation. To begin to elucidate Cbln function in other neuronal systems, we used in situ hybridization to examine Cbln expression in the mouse spinal cord. We find that neurons expressing Cblns 1, 2, and 4 tend to occupy different laminar positions within the dorsal spinal cord, and that Cbln expression is limited almost exclusively to excitatory neurons. Combined in situ hybridization and immunofluorescent staining shows that Cblns 1, 2, and 4 are expressed by largely distinct neuronal subpopulations, defined in part by sensory input, although there is some overlap and some individual neurons coexpress two Cblns. Our results suggest that differences in connectivity between subpopulations of dorsal spinal cord neurons may be influenced by which Cbln each subpopulation contains. Competitive interactions between axon terminals may determine the number of synapses each forms in any given region, and thereby contribute to the development of precise patterns of connectivity in the dorsal gray matter. J. Comp. Neurol. 522:479–497, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Ancillary