Preterm birth disrupts cerebellar development by affecting granule cell proliferation program and Bergmann glia

Publication date: August 2018
Source:Experimental Neurology, Volume 306
Author(s): Igor Y. Iskusnykh, Randal K. Buddington, Victor V. Chizhikov
Preterm birth is a leading cause of long-term motor and cognitive deficits. Clinical studies suggest that some of these deficits result from disruption of cerebellar development, but the mechanisms that mediate cerebellar abnormalities in preterm infants are largely unknown. Furthermore, it remains unclear whether preterm birth and precocious exposure to the ex-utero environment directly disrupt cerebellar development or indirectly by increasing the probability of cerebellar injury, including that resulting from clinical interventions and protocols associated with the care of preterm infants. In this study, we analyzed the cerebellum of preterm pigs delivered via c-section at 91% term and raised for 10 days, until term-equivalent age. The pigs did not receive any treatments known or suspected to affect cerebellar development and had no evidence of brain damage. Term pigs sacrificed at birth were used as controls. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that preterm birth did not affect either size or numbers of Purkinje cells or molecular layer interneurons at term-equivalent age. The number of granule cell precursors and Bergmann glial fibers, however, were reduced in preterm pigs. Preterm pigs had reduced proliferation but not differentiation of granule cells. qRT-PCR analysis of laser capture microdissected external granule cell layer showed that preterm pigs had a reduced expression of Ccnd1 (Cyclin D1), Ccnb1 (Cyclin B1), granule cell master regulatory transcription factor Atoh1, and signaling molecule Jag1. In vitro rescue experiments identified Jag1 as a central granule cell gene affected by preterm birth. Thus, preterm birth and precocious exposure to the ex-utero environment disrupt cerebellum by modulating expression of key cerebellar developmental genes, predominantly affecting development of granule precursors and Bergmann glia.