A preembedding immunocytochemical method for light microscopy was used to study the postnatal development of expression of the group III metabotropic glutamate receptor mGluR4a in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB) of the rat. Immunoreactivity for mGluR4a was localized in axonal endings wrapping the principal globular neurons in MNTB, known as calyces of Held. The percentage of calyces of Held immunoreactive for mGluR4a increased progressively from postnatal day 3 (PND3), showing the highest density of labeled calyces by PND9. From this postnatal age on, a gradual reduction in the number of mGluR4a-immunopositive calyces of Held was observed, reaching the lowest level of labeled profiles in adult tissue. The developmental expression of mGluR4a in calyces of Held correlates well with previous studies in young animals showing a modulation of synaptic neurotransmission by group III mGluRs in these giant excitatory synapses made on MNTB principal neurons. All these observations together suggest that the expression of mGluR4a mainly between PND7 and PND12 might be relevant to the maturation and modulation of synaptic transmission at the calyces of Held.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.