Loss of Piccolo Function in Rats Induces Cerebellar Network Dysfunction and Pontocerebellar Hypoplasia Type 3-like Phenotypes

Joanne Falck, Christine Bruns, Sheila Hoffmann-Conaway, Isabelle Straub, Erik J. Plautz, Marta Orlando, Humaira Munawar, Marion Rivalan, York Winter, Zsuzsanna Izsvák, Dietmar Schmitz, F. Kent Hamra, Stefan Hallermann, Craig Curtis Garner, Frauke Ackermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Piccolo, a presynaptic active zone protein, is best known for its role in the regulated assembly and function of vertebrate synapses. Genetic studies suggest a further link to several psychiatric disorders as well as Pontocerebellar Hypoplasia type 3 (PCH3). We have characterized recently generated Piccolo KO (Pclogt/gt) rats. Analysis of rats of both sexes revealed a dramatic reduction in brain size compared with WT (Pclowt/wt) animals, attributed to a decrease in the size of the cerebral cortical, cerebellar, and pontine regions. Analysis of the cerebellum and brainstem revealed a reduced granule cell layer and a reduction in size of pontine nuclei. Moreover, the maturation of mossy fiber afferents from pontine neurons and the expression of the α6 GABAA receptor subunit at the mossy fiber-granule cell synapse are perturbed, as well as the innervation of Purkinje cells by cerebellar climbing fibers. Ultrastructural and functional studies revealed a reduced size of mossy fiber boutons, with fewer synaptic vesicles and altered synaptic transmission. These data imply that Piccolo is required for the normal development, maturation, and function of neuronal networks formed between the brainstem and cerebellum. Consistently, behavioral studies demonstrated that adult Pclogt/gt rats display impaired motor coordination, despite adequate performance in tasks that reflect muscle strength and locomotion. Together, these data suggest that loss of Piccolo function in patients with PCH3 could be involved in many of the observed anatomical and behavioral symptoms, and that the further analysis of these animals could provide fundamental mechanistic insights into this devastating disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2943-2959
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Active zone
  • Piccolo
  • Pontocerebellar hypoplasia
  • Presynapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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