Ultrastructural basis of strong unitary inhibition in a binaural neuron

Binaural neurons in the lateral superior olive (LSO) integrate sound information arriving from each ear, and powerful glycinergic inhibition of these neurons plays an important role in this process. In the present study, we investigated the ultrastructural basis for strong inhibitory inputs onto LSO neurons using serial block face scanning electron microscopy. We reconstructed axon segments that make contact with the partially reconstructed soma and proximal dendrite of a mouse LSO neuron at postnatal day 18. Using functional measurements and the Sr2+ method, we find a constant quantal size but a variable quantal content between 'weak' and 'strong' unitary IPSCs. A 3-D reconstruction of a LSO neuron and its somatic synaptic afferents reveals how a large number of inhibitory axons intermingle in a complex fashion on the soma and proximal dendrite of an LSO neuron; a smaller number of excitatory axons was also observed. A given inhibitory axon typically contacts an LSO neuron via several large varicosities (average diameter 3.7 mu m), which contain several active zones (range 1-11). The number of active zones across individual axon segments was highly variable. These data suggest that the variable unitary IPSC amplitude is caused by a variable number of active zones between inhibitory axons that innervate a given LSO neuron. The results of the present study show that relatively large multi-active zone varicosities, which can be repeated many times in a given presynaptic axon, provide the ultrastructural basis for the strong multiquantal inhibition received by LSO neurons.

Published in:
Journal Of Physiology-London, 596, 20, 4969-4982
Oct 15 2018
Hoboken, WILEY

 Record created 2018-12-15, last modified 2020-04-20

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