Sequential alterations of neuronal architecture in nucleus magnocellularis of the developing chicken: an electron microscope study

Neuroscience. 1982 Apr;7(4):855-70. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(82)90047-1.


The development of the auditory nerve endings and their target cells in nucleus magnocellularis was studied by electron microscopy of perfusion-fixed brains from embryonic day 12 to hatching. Embryonic days 12-13: somatic processes extend from the perikaryon. The cytoplasm of the soma and processes contains free ribosomes, mitochondria, lysosomes, rough endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus and an eccentric, heterochromatic nucleus. Small profiles of auditory nerve fibers containing round, clear vesicles make specialized contacts, including some synapses, on distal somatic processes but rarely on proximal somatic processes or on the soma. The postsynaptic zones contain a flocculent matrix. Days 15-17: somatic processes disappear and occasional attachment plaques are seen between cell bodies. The nucleus appears euchromatic. Cytoplasmic organelles form a dense matrix indicative of intense metabolic activity. Somatic spines are evident. The afferent axons form large, vesiculated profiles located, increasingly, on the cell body and somatic spines, with many points of synaptic contact. Opposite each ending a band of amorphous, flocculent material fills the postsynaptic cytoplasm. Embryonic day 18-hatching: the somatic cytoplasm becomes less dense; stacks of rough endoplasmic reticulum start to condense. Afferent axon terminals mature, especially the synaptic membrane complex and associated densities. The postsynaptic flocculent material diminishes in extent until it is found associated only with somatic spines. The ultrastructural observations on the maturation of nucleus magnocellularis closely corroborate and extend previous results with the Golgi methods. Developing auditory nerve fibers initially synapse on the distal parts of the somatic processes of the immature cells. As the somatic processes disappear or retract, axonal endings move to the soma and develop into large axosomatic end-bulbs. Possibly, the somatic processes as they retract drag the auditory nerve endings to the cell body. The findings also suggest a role of the transiently appearing, flocculent material of the postsynaptic regions in the formation of synapses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / cytology
  • Auditory Pathways / embryology*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Chick Embryo
  • Medulla Oblongata / cytology
  • Medulla Oblongata / embryology*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Morphogenesis
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Purkinje Cells / cytology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure