The Tottering (cacna1a(tg)) mouse arose as a consequence of a spontaneous mutation in cacna1a, the gene encoding the pore-forming subunit of the pre-synaptic P/Q-type voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC, Ca(V)2.1). The mouse phenotype includes ataxia and intermittent myoclonic seizures which have been attributed to impaired excitatory neurotransmission at cerebellar granule cell (CGC) parallel fiber-Purkinje cell (PF-PC) synapses [Zhou YD, Turner TJ, Dunlap K (2003) Enhanced G-protein-dependent modulation of excitatory synaptic transmission in the cerebellum of the Ca(2+)-channel mutant mouse, tottering. J Physiol 547497-507]. We hypothesized that the expression of cerebellar GABA(A) receptors may be affected by the mutation. Indeed, abnormal GABA(A) receptor function and expression in the cacna1a(tg) forebrain has been reported previously [Tehrani MH, Barnes EM Jr (1995) Reduced function of gamma-aminobutyric acid A receptors in tottering mouse brain role of cAMP-dependent protein kinase. Epilepsy Res 2213-21; Tehrani MH, Baumgartner BJ, Liu SC, Barnes EM Jr (1997) Aberrant expression of GABA(A) receptor subunits in the tottering mouse an animal model for absence seizures. Epilepsy Res 28213-223]. Here we show a deficit of 40.2+/-3.6% in the total number of cerebellar GABA(A) receptors expressed (gamma2+delta subtypes) in adult cacna1a(tg) relative to controls. [(3)H]Muscimol autoradiography identified that this was partly due to a significant loss of CGC-specific alpha6 subunit-containing GABA(A) receptor subtypes. A large proportion of this loss of alpha6 receptors was attributable to a significantly reduced expression of the CGC-specific benzodiazepine-insensitive Ro15-4513 (BZ-IS) binding subtype, alpha6betagamma2 subunit-containing receptors. BZ-IS binding was reduced by 36.6+/-2.6% relative to controls in cerebellar membrane homogenates and by 37.2+/-3.7% in cerebellar sections. Quantitative immunoblotting revealed that the steady-state expression level of alpha6 and gamma2 subunits was selectively reduced relative to controls by 30.2+/-8.2% and 38.8+/-13.1%, respectively, alpha1, beta3 and delta were unaffected. Immunohistochemically probed control and cacna1a(tg) cerebellar sections verified that alpha6 and gamma2 subunit expression was reduced and that this deficit was restricted to the CGC layer. Thus, we have shown that abnormal cerebellar P/Q-type VGCC activity results in a deficit of CGC-specific subtype(s) of GABA(A) receptors which may contribute to, or may be a consequence of the impaired cerebellar network signaling that occurs in cacna1a(tg) mice.