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    ABSTRACT: Acoustic communication requires gathering, transforming, and interpreting diverse sound cues. To achieve this, all the spatial and temporal features of complex sound stimuli must be captured in the firing patterns of the primary sensory neurons and then accurately transmitted along auditory pathways for additional processing. The mammalian auditory system relies on several synapses with unique properties in order to meet this task: the auditory ribbon synapses, the endbulb of Held, and the calyx of Held. Each of these synapses develops morphological and electrophysiological characteristics that enable the remarkably precise signal transmission necessary for conveying the miniscule differences in timing that underly sound localization. In this article, we review the current knowledge of how these synapses develop and mature to acquire the specialized features necessary for the sense of hearing
    Hearing research 01/2014; · 2.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: During development, excess synapses form between the central and peripheral nervous systems that are then eliminated to achieve correct connectivity. In the peripheral auditory system, the developing type I spiral ganglion afferent fibres undergo a dramatic re-organisation, initially forming connections with both sensory inner hair cells (IHCs) and outer hair cells (OHCs). The OHC connections are then selectively eliminated, leaving sparse innervation by type II afferent fibres, whilst the type I afferent synapses with IHCs are consolidated. RESULTS: We examined the molecular makeup of the synaptic contacts formed onto the IHCs and OHCs during this period of afferent fibre remodelling. We observed that presynaptic ribbons initially form at all the afferent neurite contacts, i.e. not only at the expected developing IHC-type I fibre synapses but also at OHCs where type I fibres temporarily contact. Moreover, the transient contacts forming onto OHCs possess a broad set of pre- and postsynaptic proteins, suggesting that functional synaptic connections are formed prior to the removal of type I fibre innervation. AMPA-type glutamate receptor subunits were transiently observed at the base of the OHCs, with their downregulation occurring in parallel with the withdrawal of type I fibres, dispersal of presynaptic ribbons, and downregulation of the anchoring proteins Bassoon and Shank. Conversely, at developing type I afferent IHC synapses, the presence of pre- and postsynaptic scaffold proteins was maintained, with differential plasticity in AMPA receptor subunits observed and AMPA receptor subunit composition changing around hearing onset. CONCLUSIONS: Overall our data show a differential balance in the patterns of synaptic proteins at developing afferent IHC versus OHC synapses that likely reflect their stable versus transient fates.
    Neural Development 12/2012; 7(1):38. · 3.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: How size and shape of presynaptic active zones are regulated at the molecular level has remained elusive. Here we provide insight from studying rod photoreceptor ribbon-type active zones after disruption of CAST/ERC2, one of the cytomatrix of the active zone (CAZ) proteins. Rod photoreceptors were present in normal numbers, and the a-wave of the electroretinogram (ERG)--reflecting their physiological population response--was unchanged in CAST knock-out (CAST(-/-)) mice. Using immunofluorescence and electron microscopy, we found that the size of the rod presynaptic active zones, their Ca(2+) channel complement, and the extension of the outer plexiform layer were diminished. Moreover, we observed sprouting of horizontal and bipolar cells toward the outer nuclear layer indicating impaired rod transmitter release. However, rod synapses of CAST(-/-) mice, unlike in mouse mutants for the CAZ protein Bassoon, displayed anchored ribbons, normal vesicle densities, clustered Ca(2+) channels, and essentially normal molecular organization. The reduction of the rod active zone size went along with diminished amplitudes of the b-wave in scotopic ERGs. Assuming, based on the otherwise intact synaptic structure, an unaltered function of the remaining release apparatus, we take our finding to suggest a scaling of release rate with the size of the active zone. Multielectrode-array recordings of retinal ganglion cells showed decreased contrast sensitivity. This was also observed by optometry, which, moreover, revealed reduced visual acuity. We conclude that CAST supports large active zone size and high rates of transmission at rod ribbon synapses, which are required for normal vision.
    Journal of Neuroscience 08/2012; 32(35):12192-203. · 6.91 Impact Factor

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May 19, 2014