Understanding the structural and functional mechanisms underlying the development of individual brain microcircuits is critical for elucidating their computational properties. As synapses are the key structures defining a given microcircuit, it is imperative to investigate their development and precise structural features. Here, synapses in cortical layer 4 were analyzed throughout the first postnatal month using high-end electron microscopy to generate realistic quantitative 3D models. Besides their overall geometry, the size of active zones and the pools of synaptic vesicles were analyzed. At postnatal day 2 only a few shaft synapses were found, but spine synapses steadily increased with ongoing corticogenesis. From postnatal day 2 to 30 synaptic boutons significantly decreased in size whereas that of active zones remained nearly unchanged despite a reshaping. During the first 2 weeks of postnatal development, a rearrangement of synaptic vesicles from a loose distribution toward a densely packed organization close to the presynaptic density was observed, accompanied by the formation of, first a putative readily releasable pool and later a recycling and reserve pool. The quantitative 3D reconstructions of synapses will enable the comparison of structural and functional aspects of signal transduction thus leading to a better understanding of networks in the developing neocortex.
Keywords: 3D reconstructions; electron microscopy; pool of synaptic vesicles; synapse geometry; synaptogenesis.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press.