TTBK2 and primary cilia are essential for the connectivity and survival of cerebellar Purkinje neurons.
AbstractPrimary cilia are vital signaling organelles that extend from most types of cells, including neurons and glia. These structures are essential for the development of many tissues and organs, however, their function in adult tissues, particularly neurons in the brain, remains largely unknown. Tau tubulin kinase 2 (TTBK2) is a critical regulator of ciliogenesis, and is also mutated in a hereditary neurodegenerative disorder, spinocerebellar ataxia type 11 (SCA11). Here, we show that conditional knockout of Ttbk2 in adult mice results in degenerative cerebellar phenotypes that recapitulate aspects of SCA11 including motor coordination deficits and defects to Purkinje cell (PC) integrity. We also find that the Ttbk2 conditional mutant mice quickly lose cilia throughout the brain. We show that conditional knockout of the key ciliary trafficking gene Ift88 in adult mice results in nearly identical cerebellar phenotypes to those of the Ttbk2 knockout, indicating that disruption of ciliary signaling is a key driver of these phenotypes. Our data suggest that primary cilia play an integral role in maintaining the function of PCs in the adult cerebellum and reveal novel insights into mechanisms involved in neurodegeneration.