Purkinje neuron dendritic degeneration precedes cell loss in cerebellar ataxia, but the basis for dendritic vulnerability in ataxia remains poorly understood. Recent work has suggested that potassium (K+) channel dysfunction and consequent spiking abnormalities contribute to Purkinje neuron degeneration, but little attention has been paid to how K+ channel dysfunction impacts dendritic excitability and the role this may play in the degenerative process. We examined the relationship between K+ channel dysfunction, dendritic excitability and dendritic degeneration in spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1). Examination of published RNA sequencing data from SCA1 mice revealed reduced expression of several K+ channels that are important regulators of excitability in Purkinje neuron dendrites. Patch clamp recordings in Purkinje neurons from SCA1 mice identified increased dendritic excitability in the form of enhanced back-propagation of action potentials and an increased propensity to produce dendritic calcium spikes. Dendritic excitability could be rescued by restoring expression of large-conductance calcium-activated potassium (BK) channels and activating other K+ channels with baclofen. Importantly, this treatment combination improves motor performance and mitigates dendritic degeneration in SCA1 mice. These results suggest that reduced expression of K+ channels results in persistently increased dendritic excitability at all stages of disease in SCA1, which in turn may contribute to the dendritic degeneration that precedes cell loss.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)