Morphology of axosomatic endings in an avian cochlear nucleus: nucleus magnocellularis of the chicken

J Comp Neurol. 1981 Dec 10;203(3):425-40. doi: 10.1002/cne.902030307.


The axonal endings formed on the somata of neurons in the brainstem auditory nucleus magnocellularis (NM) were measured and classified in thin-sectioned material from adult chickens. Degeneration of primary endings after destruction of the basilar papilla and labeling of cochlear nerve fibers by injection of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) into the inner ear were used to determine which ending types arise from the cochlear ganglion. About 60% of the perikaryal surface is apposed by primary type terminals. These primary endbulbs are characterized by round clear synaptic vesicles distributed at an average density of 63 vesicles/micrometers 2 and a number of small, punctate, highly asymmetrical synaptic contacts. The primary type is the only class of endings which disappears after destruction of the basilar papilla and which is consistently labeled after HRP injections into the ear. These endings probably account for the "fast" EPSP seen in NM during stimulation of the cochlear nerve. NM neurons receive two types of nonprimary ending. About 13% of the perikaryal surface is apposed by a morphologically homogeneous class of small "symmetrical" endings; these are characterized by a flattened rhomboidal shape, numerous mitochondria, frequent coated vesicles, and small round or ovoid synaptic vesicles at an average density of 165 vesicles/micrometers 2. Most of the length of the apposition between ending and cell body is occupied by a synaptic complex with thin symmetrical presynaptic and postsynaptic densities. These endings were frequently found on short somatic processes. The second nonprimary axosomatic ending type in NM is most easily identified in experimental material; these endings occupy about 5% of the cell surface area and have a distinctly rounded profile in cross section. These endings typically exhibit clear round synaptic vesicles at a density of 111 vesicles/micrometers 2 arrayed before synaptic contacts which occupy a substantially larger fraction of the total apposition length than in the endbulbs. Many of these synaptic contacts show well-defined presynaptic grids and have postsynaptic densities intermediate in width between the endbulbs and the symmetrical endings. This second type of nonprimary ending may be responsible for the long-latency excitatory post-synaptic potentials seen in intracellular recordings from NM during electrical stimulation of the cochlear nerve. The morphology and distribution of the three ending types does not differ significantly along the posterior-to-anterior axis of NM.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Chickens / anatomy & histology*
  • Cochlear Nerve / physiology
  • Cochlear Nerve / ultrastructure*
  • Female
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Male
  • Medulla Oblongata / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Nerve Endings / physiology
  • Nerve Endings / ultrastructure*
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology


  • Horseradish Peroxidase