Purkinje cell injury, structural plasticity and fusion in patients with Friedreich's ataxia

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Purkinje cell pathology is a common finding in a range of inherited and acquired cerebellar disorders, with the degree of Purkinje cell injury dependent on the underlying aetiology. Purkinje cells have an unparalleled resistance to insult and display unique regenerative capabilities within the central nervous system. Their response to cell injury is not typical of most neurons and likely represents both degenerative, compensatory and regenerative mechanisms. Here we present a pathological study showing novel and fundamental insights into Purkinje cell injury, remodelling and repair in Friedreich's ataxia; the most common inherited ataxia. Analysing post-mortem cerebellum tissue from patients who had Friedreich's ataxia, we provide evidence of significant injury to the Purkinje cell axonal compartment with relative preservation of both the perikaryon and its extensive dendritic arborisation. Axonal remodelling of Purkinje cells was clearly elevated in the disease. For the first time in a genetic condition, we have also shown a disease-related increase in the frequency of Purkinje cell fusion and heterokaryon formation in Friedreich's ataxia cases; with evidence that underlying levels of cerebellar inflammation influence heterokaryon formation. Our results together further demonstrate the Purkinje cell's unique plasticity and regenerative potential. Elucidating the biological mechanisms behind these phenomena could have significant clinical implications for manipulating neuronal repair in response to neurological injury.




Kemp, K. C., Cook, A. J., Redondo, J., Kurian, K. M., Scolding, N. J., & Wilkins, A. (2016). Purkinje cell injury, structural plasticity and fusion in patients with Friedreich’s ataxia. Acta Neuropathologica Communications, 4(1), 53. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40478-016-0326-3

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