Francis, Howard W., A. Rivas, M. Lehar, and D.K. Ryugo (2004)
Two types of afferent terminals innervate cochlear inner hair cells in C57BL/6J mice. Brain Research 1016:182-194.
Afferent synapses on inner hair cells (IHC) transfer auditory information to the central nervous system (CNS). Despite the importance of these synapses for normal hearing, their response to cochlear disease and dysfunction is not well understood. The C57BL/6J mouse is a model for presbycusis and noise-induced hearing loss because of its age-related hearing loss and susceptibility to acoustic over-exposure. In this context, we sought to establish normal synaptic structure in order to better evaluate synaptic changes due to presbycusis and noise exposure. Ultrastructural analysis of IHCs and afferent terminals was performed in a normal hearing 3-month-old C57BL/6J mouse at cochlear sites corresponding to 8, 16 and 32 kHz using semi-serial sections. A stereologic survey of random sections was conducted of IHCs in 11 additional mice. Two morphologically distinct groups of afferent terminals were identified at all 3 frequency locations in 11 out of 12 animals. "Simple" endings demonstrated classic features of bouton terminals, whereas "folded" endings were larger in size and exhibited a novel morphologic feature that consisted of a fully internalized double membrane that partially divided the terminal into two compartments. In many cases, the double membrane was continuous with the outer terminal membrane as if produced by an invagination. We still must determine the generality of these observations with respect to other mouse strains.
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