Dynamic fidelity control to the central auditory system: synergistic glycine/GABAergic inhibition in the cochlear nucleus

J Neurosci. 2014 Aug 27;34(35):11604-20. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0719-14.2014.


GABA and glycine are the major inhibitory transmitters that attune neuronal activity in the CNS of mammals. The respective transmitters are mostly spatially separated, that is, synaptic inhibition in the forebrain areas is mediated by GABA, whereas glycine is predominantly used in the brainstem. Accordingly, inhibition in auditory brainstem circuits is largely mediated by glycine, but there are few auditory synapses using both transmitters in maturity. Little is known about physiological advantages of such a two-transmitter inhibitory mechanism. We explored the benefit of engaging both glycine and GABA with inhibition at the endbulb of Held-spherical bushy cell synapse in the auditory brainstem of juvenile Mongolian gerbils. This model synapse enables selective in vivo activation of excitatory and inhibitory neuronal inputs through systemic sound stimulation and precise analysis of the input (endbulb of Held) output (spherical bushy cell) function. The combination of in vivo and slice electrophysiology revealed that the dynamic AP inhibition in spherical bushy cells closely matches the inhibitory conductance profile determined by the glycine-R and GABAA-R. The slow and potent glycinergic component dominates the inhibitory conductance, thereby primarily accounting for its high-pass filter properties. GABAergic transmission enhances the inhibitory strength and shapes its duration in an activity-dependent manner, thus increasing the inhibitory potency to suppress the excitation through the endbulb of Held. Finally, in silico modeling provides a strong link between in vivo and slice data by simulating the interactions between the endbulb- and the synergistic glycine-GABA-conductances during in vivo-like spontaneous and sound evoked activities.

Keywords: AP inhibition; GABAA/glycine receptors; auditory signal processing; in vivo electrophysiology; modeling; slice electrophysiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Cochlear Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gerbillinae
  • Glycine / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Synapses / physiology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glycine