The establishment of cell-type-specific dendritic arbors is fundamental for proper neural circuit formation. Here, using temporal- and cell-specific knock-down, knock-out, and overexpression approaches, we show that multiple aspects of the dendritic organization of cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs) are controlled by a single transcriptional factor, retinoic acid-related orphan receptor-alpha (RORα), a gene defective in staggerer mutant mice. As reported earlier, RORawas required for regression of primitive dendrites before postnatal day 4 (P4). RORα was also necessary for PCs to form a single Purkinje layer from P0 to P4. The knock-down of RORafrom P4 impaired the elimination of perisomatic dendrites and maturation of single stem dendrites in PCs at P8. Filopodia and spines were also absent in these PCs. The knock-down of RORα from P8 impaired the formation and maintenance of terminal dendritic branches of PCs at P14. Finally, even after dendrite formation was completed at P21,RORα was required for PCs to maintain dendritic complexity and functional synapses, but their mature innervation pattern by single climbing fibers was unaffected. Interestingly, overexpression of RORain PCs at various developmental stages did not facilitate dendrite development, but had specific detrimental effects on PCs. Because RORα deficiency during development is closely related to the severity of spinocerebellar ataxia type 1, delineating the specific roles of RORain PCs in vivo at different time windows during development and throughout adulthood would facilitate our understanding of the pathogenesis of cerebellar disorders.
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