Neuronal heterogeneity and stereotyped connectivity in the auditory afferent system

Nat Commun. 2018 Sep 12;9(1):3691. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06033-3.


Spiral ganglion (SG) neurons of the cochlea convey all auditory inputs to the brain, yet the cellular and molecular complexity necessary to decode the various acoustic features in the SG has remained unresolved. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, we identify four types of SG neurons, including three novel subclasses of type I neurons and the type II neurons, and provide a comprehensive genetic framework that define their potential synaptic communication patterns. The connectivity patterns of the three subclasses of type I neurons with inner hair cells and their electrophysiological profiles suggest that they represent the intensity-coding properties of auditory afferents. Moreover, neuron type specification is already established at birth, indicating a neuronal diversification process independent of neuronal activity. Thus, this work provides a transcriptional catalog of neuron types in the cochlea, which serves as a valuable resource for dissecting cell-type-specific functions of dedicated afferents in auditory perception and in hearing disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cochlea / cytology
  • Cochlea / metabolism
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / cytology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / metabolism*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / cytology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Spiral Ganglion / cytology
  • Spiral Ganglion / metabolism
  • Synaptic Potentials / physiology