In the past two decades, mounting evidence has modified the classical view of the cerebellum as a brain region specifically involved in the modulation of motor functions. Indeed, clinical studies and engineered mouse models have highlighted cerebellar circuits implicated in cognitive functions and behavior. Furthermore, it is now clear that insults occurring in specific time windows of cerebellar development can affect cognitive performance later in life and are associated with neurological syndromes, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Despite its almost homogenous cytoarchitecture, how cerebellar circuits form and function is not completely elucidated yet. Notably, the apparently simple neuronal organization of the cerebellum, in which Purkinje cells represent the only output, hides an elevated functional diversity even within the same neuronal population. Such complexity is the result of the integration of intrinsic morphogenetic programs and extracellular cues from the surrounding environment, which impact on the regulation of the transcriptome of cerebellar neurons. In this review, we briefly summarize key features of the development and structure of the cerebellum before focusing on the pathways involved in the acquisition of the cerebellar neuron identity. We focus on gene expression and mRNA processing programs, including mRNA methylation, trafficking and splicing, that are set in motion during cerebellar development and participate to its physiology. These programs are likely to add new layers of complexity and versatility that are fundamental for the adaptability of cerebellar neurons.
© 2021. The Author(s).