Inhibitory synaptogenesis in the rat anteroventral cochlear nucleus

Neuroscience. 2008 Jun 12;154(1):315-28. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.03.027. Epub 2008 Mar 22.


Spherical cells in the anteroventral division of the cochlear nucleus, which relay excitatory inputs from the auditory nerve, also receive both GABAergic and glycinergic inhibitory synapses. Inhibition mediated by GABA and glycine fulfils essential roles in the processing abilities of these and other auditory neurons. However, the developmental program leading to a mature complement of GABAergic and glycinergic synapses and microcircuits is largely unknown. Because of their relatively simple geometry, spherical cells provide an excellent model for unraveling basic developmental patterns of inhibitory synaptogenesis. Using a combination of high resolution immunocytochemical methods, we report that, in the rat, synapses containing GABA or glycine are deployed on spherical cell bodies over a time period extending well beyond hearing onset. Such postnatal developmental recruitment of inhibitory endings is progressive, although there are two distinct leaps in their numbers. The first occurs by the end of the first postnatal week, prior to hearing onset, and the second, during the third postnatal week, after hearing onset. This pattern suggests that adjustments in inhibition could be driven by acoustic experience. While GABAergic and glycinergic endings are maturing and growing in number and size, their neurotransmitter content also appears to be developmentally regulated. Quantitative ultrastructural immunocytochemistry with colloidal gold suggests that GABA and glycine accumulation in synaptic endings follows a staggered pattern, with labeling stabilizing at adult levels by postnatal day 21. This may account for adjustments in synaptic efficacy and strength.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cochlear Nucleus / cytology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology
  • Glycine / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron / methods
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glycine