Ataxia represents a pathological coordination failure that often involves functional disturbances in cerebellar circuits. Purkinje cells (PCs) characterize the only output neurons of the cerebellar cortex and critically participate in regulating motor coordination. Although different genetic mutations are known that cause ataxia, little is known about the underlying cellular mechanisms. Here we show that a mutated axJ gene locus, encoding the ubiquitin-specific protease 14 (Usp14), negatively influences synaptic receptor turnover. AxJ mouse mutants, characterized by cerebellar ataxia, display both increased GABAA receptor (GABA AR) levels at PC surface membranes accompanied by enlarged IPSCs. Accordingly, we identify physical interaction of Usp14 and the GABAAR α1 subunit. Although other currently unknown changes might be involved, our data show that ubiquitin-dependent GABAAR turnover at cerebellar synapses contributes to axJ-mediated behavioural impairment. © 2009 Lappe-Siefke et al.