P75 regulates Purkinje cell firing by modulating SK channel activity through Rac1 [Neurobiology]

September 24th, 2014 by Tian, J., Tep, C., Benedick, A., Saidi, N., Ryu, J. C., Kim, M. L., Sadasivan, S., Oberdick, J., Smeyne, R., Zhu, M. X., Yoon, S. O.

P75 is expressed among Purkinje cells in the adult cerebellum, but its function has remained obscure. Here we report that p75 is involved in maintaining the frequency and regularity of spontaneous firing of Purkinje cells. The overall spontaneous firing activity of Purkinje cells was increased in p75-/- mice during the phasic firing period due to a longer firing period and accompanying reduction in silence period than in the wild type. We attribute these effects to a reduction in small conductance Ca2+-activated potassium (SK) channel activity, which was reduced in Purkinje cells from p75-/- mice compared to the wild type littermates. The mechanism by which p75 regulates SK channel activity appears to involve its ability to activate Rac1. In organotypic cultures of cerebellar slices, BDNF increased RacGTP levels BDNF increased RacGTP levels by activating p75, but not TrkB. These results correlate with a reduction in RacGTP levels in synaptosome fractions from the p75-/- cerebellum, but not in that from the cortex of the same animals, compared to wild type littermates. More importantly, we demonstrate that Rac1 modulates SK channel activity and firing patterns of Purkinje cells. Along with results that spine density was reduced in p75-/- cerebellum, these data suggest that p75 plays a role in maintaining normalcy of Purkinje cell firing in the cerebellum in part by activating Rac1 in synaptic compartments and modulating SK channels.