Neurotransmitter-mediated activity spatially controls neuronal migration in the zebrafish cerebellum
Neuronal migration during embryonic development contributes to functional brain circuitry. Many neurons migrate in morphologically distinct stages that coincide with differentiation, requiring tight spatial regulation. It had been proposed that neurotransmitter-mediated activity could exert this control. Here, we demonstrate that intracellular calcium transients occur in cerebellar neurons of zebrafish embryos during migration. We show that depolarization increases and hyperpolarization reduces the speed of tegmental hindbrain neurons using optogenetic tools and advanced track analysis optimized for in vivo migration. Finally, we introduce a compound screening assay to identify acetylcholine (ACh), glutamate, and glycine as regulators of migration, which act regionally along the neurons' route. We summarize our findings in a model describing how different neurotransmitters spatially interact to control neuronal migration. The high evolutionary conservation of the cerebellum and hindbrain makes it likely that polarization state-driven motility constitutes an important principle in building a functional brain.