Functional recovery after cerebellar damage is related to GAP-43-mediated reactive responses of pre-cerebellar and deep cerebellar nuclei

Lorena Burello, Paola De Bartolo, Francesca Gelfo, Francesca Foti, Francesco Angelucci, Laura Petrosini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since brain injuries in adulthood are a leading cause of long-term disabilities, the development of rehabilitative strategies able to impact on functional outcomes requires detailing adaptive neurobiological responses. Functional recovery following brain insult is mainly ascribed to brain neuroplastic properties although the close linkage between neuronal plasticity and functional recovery is not yet fully clarified. The present study analyzed the reactive responses of pre-cerebellar (inferior olive, lateral reticular nucleus and pontine nuclei) and deep cerebellar nuclei after a hemicerebellectomy, considering the great plastic potential of the cerebellar system in physiological and pathological conditions. The time course of the plastic reorganization following cerebellar lesion was investigated by monitoring the Growth Associated Protein-43 (GAP-43) immunoreactivity. The time course of recovery from cerebellar symptoms was also assessed to parallel behavioral and neurobiological parameters. A key role of GAP-43 in neuronal reactive responses was evidenced. Neurons that underwent an axotomy as consequence of the right hemicerebellectomy (neurons of left inferior olive, right lateral reticular nucleus and left pontine nuclei) exhibited enhanced GAP-43 immunoreactivity and cell death. As for the not-axotomized neurons, we found enhanced GAP-43 immunoreactivity only in right pontine nuclei projecting to the spared (left) hemicerebellum. GAP-43 levels augmented also in the three deep cerebellar nuclei of the spared hemicerebellum, indicating the ponto-cerebellar circuit as crucially involved in functional recovery. Interestingly, each nucleus showed a distinct time course in GAP-43 immunoreactivity. GAP-43 levels peaked during the first post-operative week in the fastigial and interposed nuclei and after one month in the dentate nucleus. These results suggest that the earlier plastic events of the fastigial and interposed nuclei were driving compensation of the elementary features of posture and locomotion, while the later plastic events of the dentate nucleus were mediating the recovered ability to flexibly adjust the locomotor plan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-282
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • Cerebellar lesion
  • Deep cerebellar nuclei
  • GAP-43
  • Lesion-induced plasticity
  • Motor symptomatology
  • Post-lesional rearrangement
  • Pre-cerebellar nuclei
  • Retrograde death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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