Abstract / Description of output
Mutations in the gene encoding β-III spectrin give rise to spinocerebellar ataxia type 5, a neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive thinning of the molecular layer, loss of Purkinje cells and increasing motor deficits. A mouse lacking full-length β-III spectrin (β-III⁻/⁻) displays a similar phenotype. In vitro and in vivo analyses of Purkinje cells lacking β-III spectrin, reveal a critical role for β-III spectrin in Purkinje cell morphological development. Disruption of the normally well ordered dendritic arborization occurs in Purkinje cells from β-III⁻/⁻ mice, specifically showing a loss of monoplanar organization, smaller average dendritic diameter and reduced densities of Purkinje cell spines and synapses. Early morphological defects appear to affect distribution of dendritic, but not axonal, proteins. This study confirms that thinning of the molecular layer associated with disease pathogenesis is a consequence of Purkinje cell dendritic degeneration, as Purkinje cells from 8-month-old β-III⁻/⁻ mice have drastically reduced dendritic volumes, surface areas and total dendritic lengths compared with 5- to 6-week-old β-III⁻/⁻ mice. These findings highlight a critical role of β-III spectrin in dendritic biology and are consistent with an early developmental defect in β-III⁻/⁻ mice, with abnormal Purkinje cell dendritic morphology potentially underlying disease pathogenesis.