The localisation of urocortin in the adult rat cerebellum: a light and electron microscopic study

Jerome Swinny, D. Kalicharan, A. Gramsbergen, J. van der Want

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Light and electron microscopic immunocytochemistry was used to identify the cellular and subcellular localisation of urocortin in the adult rat cerebellum. Urocortin immunoreactivity (UCN-ir) was visualised throughout the cerebellum, yet predominated in the posterior vermal lobules, especially lobules IX and X, the flocculus, paraflocculus and deep cerebellar nuclei. Cortical immunoreactivity was most evident in the Purkinje cell layer and molecular layer. Reaction product, though sparse, was found in the somata of Purkinje cells, primarily in the region of the Golgi apparatus. Purkinje cell dendritic UCN-ir was compartmentalised, with it being prevalent in proximal regions especially where climbing fibres synapsed, yet absent in distal regions where parallel fibres synapsed. In the Purkinje cell layer, the labelling was also contained in axonal terminals, synapsing directly on Purkinje cell somata. These were identified as axon terminals of basket cells based on their morphology. Terminals of stellate cells in the upper molecular layer also expressed the peptide. Whilst somata of inferior olivary neurones showed intense immunoreactivity, axonal labelling was indistinct, with only the terminals of climbing fibres containing reaction product. UCN-ir in the mossy fibre–parallel fibre system was restricted to mossy fibre rosettes of mainly posterior lobules and the varicose terminals of parallel fibres. Furthermore, labelling also was prevalent in glial perikarya and their sheaths. The current study shows, firstly, that urocortin enjoys a close ligand–receptor symmetry in the cerebellum, probably to a greater degree than corticotropin-releasing factor since corticotropin-releasing factor itself is found exclusively in the two major cerebellar afferent systems. Its congregation in excitatory and inhibitory axonal terminals suggests a significant degree of participation in the synaptic milieu, perhaps in the capacity as a neurotransmitter or effecting the release of co-localised neurotransmitters. Finally, its unique distribution in the Purkinje cell dendrite might serve as an anatomical marker of discrete populations of dendritic spines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)891-903
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2002


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