Cbln1 (a.k.a. precerebellin) is secreted from cerebellar granule cells as homohexamer or in heteromeric complexes with Cbln3. Cbln1 plays crucial roles in regulating morphological integrity of parallel fiber (PF)-Purkinje cell (PC) synapses and synaptic plasticity. Cbln1-knockout mice display severe cerebellar phenotypes that are essentially indistinguishable from those in glutamate receptor GluRδ2-null mice, and include severe reduction in the number of PF-PC synapses and loss of long-term depression of synaptic transmission. To understand better the relationship between Cbln1, Cbln3 and GluRδ2, we performed light and electron microscopic immunohistochemical analyses using highly specific antibodies and antigen-exposing methods, i.e. pepsin pretreatment for light microscopy and postembedding immunogold for electron microscopy. In conventional immunohistochemistry, Cbln1 was preferentially associated with non-terminal portions of PF axons in the molecular layer but rarely overlapped with Cbln3. In contrast, antigen-exposing methods not only greatly intensified Cbln1 immunoreactivity in the molecular layer, but also revealed its high accumulation in the synaptic cleft of PF-PC synapses. No such synaptic accumulation was evident at other PC synapses. Furthermore, Cbln1 now came to overlap almost completely with Cbln3 and GluRδ2 at PF-PC synapses. Therefore, the convergence of all three molecules provides the anatomical basis for a common signaling pathway regulating circuit development and synaptic plasticity in the cerebellum.
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