The cerebellar Purkinje cell has been the focus of numerous studies involving the analysis of development and information processing in the nervous system. Purkinje cells represent less than 0.1% of the total cell content of the cerebellum. To facilitate studies of molecules that are expressed in such a small proportion of neurons, we have established procedures for the purification of these cells. Transgenic mice were developed in which the expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) was controlled by the L7 promoter. In adult cerebellum, GFP fluorescence was only detected in Purkinje cells, where it filled dendrites, soma and axons. GFP fluorescence was detected in Purkinje cells as early as embryonic day 17 and increased during development in vivo and in dissociated cerebellar culture. Mirroring endogenous L7 expression, high levels of GFP were observed in retinal rod bipolar cells. Lower levels of GFP were seen in olfactory periglomerular cells, neurons in the interpeduncular nucleus, and superior colliculus neurons. Cerebella from transgenic mice were dissociated by mild enzymatic treatment and Purkinje cells were isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). By selecting optimal parameters, a fraction of viable Purkinje cells that was 94% pure was obtained. These results indicate that FACS is a powerful tool for isolating Purkinje cells from postnatal L7-GFP transgenic mice. GFP-positive neurons will also be useful in the real-time observation of dendritic morphogenesis and axonal outgrowth during development, or after neuronal activity in vitro.
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