Foliation of the mouse cerebellum occurs primarily during the first 2 weeks after birth and is accompanied by tremendous proliferation of granule cell precursors (GCPs). We have previously shown that sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling correlates spatially and temporally with fissure formation, and that Gli2 is the main activator driving Shh induced proliferation of embryonic GCPs. Here, we have tested whether the level of Shh signaling regulates the extent of cerebellar foliation. By progressively lowering signaling by removing Gli1 and Gli2 or the Shh receptor smoothened, we found the extent of foliation is gradually reduced, and that this correlates with a decrease in the duration of GCP proliferation. Importantly, the pattern of the remaining fissures in the mutants corresponds to the first fissures that form during normal development. In a complementary manner, an increase in the level and length of Shh signaling results in formation of an extra fissure in a position conserved in rat. The complexity of cerebellar foliation varies greatly between vertebrate species. Our studies have uncovered a mechanism by which the level and length of Shh signaling could be integral to determining the distinct number of fissures in each species.
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