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Abstract

The aim of this work was to investigate how the environment of the neuropil determines the positioning and differentiation of neurons that are postsynaptic to them. We investigated how stellate and basket cells, the small inhibitory interneurons of the cerebellar cortex, find their perpendicular orientation to the direction of fasciculated granule cell axons. Cultures of early postnatal mouse cerebellar microexplants showing this cellular behaviour in vitro were analysed by video time-lapse cinematography and evaluated by morphometry. The small interneurons were first detectable when they migrated, intermingled with granule cells, away from the explant along the radial fascicles of granule cell neurites. During migration some cells suddenly changed their orientation by extending neurites in perpendicular orientation to the radial fascicles. These cells were all GABA-immunoreactive and expressed the cytoskeletal markers tau in the thin axon-like process and MAP2 in the thicker dendrite-like arborizations at the opposite pole of the cell body. After having translocated in perpendicular orientation, these neurons were again able to turn back to move along the radial neurite bundles to another position. Furthermore, while in perpendicular orientation, the processes of these cells repelled each other upon contact of their growth cones, leading to equal spacing between the cell bodies with time in culture.