Bergmann Glial AMPA Receptors Are Required for Fine Motor Coordination

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Science  10 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6095, pp. 749-753
DOI: 10.1126/science.1221140

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Crucial Cerebellar Glial Cells

The role of glial cells and their interaction with neurons in normal behavior is unclear. To address this question, Saab et al. (p. 749, published online 5 July) studied a special type of glial cell in the cerebellum. Conditional mutant mice were produced in which the two glutamate receptor subunits normally present in Bergmann glial cells were efficiently ablated in a temporally controlled manner. Glutamate signaling of the glial cells contributed to the structural and functional integrity of the cerebellar network. Bergmann glial cells also played a role in the “fine-tuning” of neuronal processing, which is crucial for the fast and precise control of complex motor behavior.


The impact of glial neurotransmitter receptors in vivo is still elusive. In the cerebellum, Bergmann glial (BG) cells express α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA)–type glutamate receptors (AMPARs) composed exclusively of GluA1 and/or GluA4 subunits. With the use of conditional gene inactivation, we found that the majority of cerebellar GluA1/A4-type AMPARs are expressed in BG cells. In young mice, deletion of BG AMPARs resulted in retraction of glial appendages from Purkinje cell (PC) synapses, increased amplitude and duration of evoked PC currents, and a delayed formation of glutamatergic synapses. In adult mice, AMPAR inactivation also caused retraction of glial processes. The physiological and structural changes were accompanied by behavioral impairments in fine motor coordination. Thus, BG AMPARs are essential to optimize synaptic integration and cerebellar output function throughout life.

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