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Revealing the molecular layer of the primate dorsal cochlear nucleus


Maria E. Rubio, K.A. Gudsnuk, Y. Smith, and D.K. Ryugo (2008) Revealing the molecular layer of the primate dorsal cochlear nucleus. Neuroscience doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.12.016

In nonprimate mammals, the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) is thought to play a role in the orientation of the head toward sounds of interest by integrating acoustic and somatosensory information. Humans and higher primates might not use this system because of reported phylogenetic changes in DCN cytoarchitecture [Moskowitz N (1969) Comparative aspects of some features of the central auditory system of primates. Ann N Y Acad Sci 167:357-369; Moore JK, Osen KK (1979) The cochlear nuclei in man. Am J Anat 154:393-418; Moore JK (1980) The primate cochlear nuclei: loss of lamination as a phylogenetic process. J Comp Neurol 193:609-629]. In this study, we re-evaluated this question from a comparative perspective and examined the rhesus monkey (cercopithecoid primate) using more sensitive probes and higher resolution imaging methods. We used electron microscopy to identify parallel fibers and their synapses, and molecular markers to determine that primates exhibit the main components of excitatory neurotransmission as other mammals. We observed that characteristics of the monkey molecular layer resembled what has been reported for nonprimates: (1) immunohistochemistry revealed many unmyelinated, thin axons and en passant glutamatergic synapses on dendritic spines; (2) immunohistochemistry for phosphodiesterase (PDE10A) showed the nuclei of granule cells distributed in the external molecular layer and the deep layers in the DCN; (3) antibodies for the inositol trisphosphate receptor (IP3r) and calbindin immunostained cartwheel cells; (4) postembedding immunogold labeling revealed synaptic expression of AMPA and delta glutamate receptor subunits on spines in parallel fiber endings; and (5) parallel fibers use vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (VGLUT1) to package glutamate into the synaptic vesicles and to mediate glutamate transport. These observations are consistent with the argument that the rhesus monkey DCN has neuronal features similar to those of other nonprimate mammals.

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