JournalNeural Excitability, Synapses, and Glia

Conversion of Graded Presynaptic Climbing Fiber Activity into Graded Postsynaptic Ca2+ Signals by Purkinje Cell Dendrites

Sensory enhancement is encoded in the presynaptic activity level of Climbing Fibers. Comparison of the sensory enhancement of calcium event amplitudes in Climbing Fibers compared to observations in Purkinje cells, measured in separate experiments. The change in Purkinje cell response size closely parallels that of Climbing Fibers across modalities.

The brain must make sense of external stimuli to generate relevant behavior. We used a combination of in vivo approaches to investigate how the cerebellum processes sensory-related information. We found that the inferior olive encodes contexts of sensory-associated external cues in a graded manner, apparent in the presynaptic activity of their axonal projections (climbing fibers) in the cerebellar cortex. Individual climbing fibers were broadly responsive to different sensory modalities but relayed sensory-related information to the cortex in a lobule-dependent manner. Purkinje cell dendrites faithfully transformed this climbing fiber activity into dendrite-wide Ca2+ signals without a direct contribution from the mossy fiber pathway. These results demonstrate that the size of climbing-fiber-evoked Ca2+ signals in Purkinje cell dendrites is largely determined by the firing level of climbing fibers. This coding scheme emphasizes the overwhelming role of the inferior olive in generating salient signals useful for instructing plasticity and learning.


Michael A. Gaffield, Audrey Bonnan, and Jason M. Christie (2019). Conversion of Graded Presynaptic Climbing Fiber Activity into Graded Postsynaptic Ca2+ Signals by Purkinje Cell Dendrites. Neuron, 102, 1–8.
https://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(19)30217-X