Research Papers:

Functional compatibility between Purkinje cell axon branches and their target neurons in the cerebellum

Zhilai Yang, Na Chen, Rongjing Ge, Hao Qian and Jin-Hui Wang _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:72424-72437. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.19770

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Zhilai Yang1,5,*, Na Chen1,*, Rongjing Ge4,*, Hao Qian1 and Jin-Hui Wang1,2,3,4

1Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

2College of Life Science, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

3Qingdao University, School of Pharmacy, Shandong 266021, China

4Department of Physiology, Bengbu Medical College, Bengbu 233000, China

5Department of Anesthesiology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University, Hefei 230022, China

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Jin-Hui Wang, email: [email protected]

Keywords: axon, neuron, action potential, synaptic transmission, Purkinje cell

Received: May 30, 2017    Accepted: June 28, 2017    Published: August 01, 2017


A neuron sprouts an axon, and its branches to innervate many target neurons that are divergent in their functions. In order to efficiently regulate the diversified cells, the axon branches should differentiate functionally to be compatible with their target neurons, i.e., a function compatibility between presynaptic and postsynaptic partners. We have examined this hypothesis by using electrophysiological method in the cerebellum, in which the main axon of Purkinje cell projected to deep nucleus cells and the recurrent axons innervated the adjacent Purkinje cells. The fidelity of spike propagation is superior in the recurrent branches than the main axon. The capabilities of encoding spikes and processing GABAergic inputs are advanced in Purkinje cells versus deep nucleus cells. The functional differences among Purkinje’s axonal branches and their postsynaptic neurons are preset by the variable dynamics of their voltage-gated sodium channels. In addition, activity strengths between presynaptic and postsynaptic partners are proportionally correlated, i.e., active axonal branches innervate active target neurons, or vice versa. The physiological impact of the functional compatibility is to make the neurons in their circuits to be activated appropriately. In conclusion, each cerebellar Purkinje cell sprouts the differentiated axon branches to be compatible with the diversified target cells in their functions, in order to construct the homeostatic and efficient units for their coordinated activity in neural circuits.

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