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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Distribution of glial cells in the auditory brainstem: Normal development and effects of unilateral lesion

  • Author(s): Dinh, ML
  • Koppel, SJ
  • Korn, MJ
  • Cramer, KS
  • et al.

© 2014 IBRO. Auditory brainstem networks facilitate sound source localization through binaural integration. A key component of this circuitry is the projection from the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) to the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB), a relay nucleus that provides inhibition to the superior olivary complex. This strictly contralateral projection terminates in the large calyx of Held synapse. The formation of this pathway requires spatiotemporal coordination of cues that promote cell maturation, axon growth, and synaptogenesis. Here we have examined the emergence of distinct classes of glial cells, which are known to function in development and in response to injury. Immunofluorescence for several astrocyte markers revealed unique expression patterns. Aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 family member L1 (ALDH1L1) was expressed earliest in both nuclei, followed by S100ß, during the first postnatal week. Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) expression was seen in the second postnatal week. GFAP-positive cell bodies remained outside the boundaries of VCN and MNTB, with a limited number of labeled fibers penetrating into the margins of the nuclei. Oligodendrocyte transcription factor 2 (OLIG2) expression revealed the presence of oligodendrocytes in VCN and MNTB from birth until after hearing onset. In addition, ionized calcium binding adaptor molecule 1 (IBA1)-positive microglia were observed after the first postnatal week. Following hearing onset, all glial populations were found in MNTB. We then determined the distribution of glial cells following early (P2) unilateral cochlear removal, which results in formation of ectopic projections from the intact VCN to ipsilateral MNTB. We found that following perturbation, astrocytic markers showed expression near the ectopic ipsilateral calyx. Taken together, the developmental expression patterns are consistent with a role for glial cells in the maturation of the calyx of Held and suggest that these cells may have a similar role in maturation of lesion-induced connections.

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