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1.  Short-Term Synaptic Depression Is Topographically Distributed in the Cochlear Nucleus of the Chicken 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(4):1314-1324.
In the auditory system, sounds are processed in parallel frequency-tuned circuits, beginning in the cochlea. Activity of auditory nerve fibers reflects this frequency-specific topographic pattern, known as tonotopy, and imparts frequency tuning onto their postsynaptic target neurons in the cochlear nucleus. In birds, cochlear nucleus magnocellularis (NM) neurons encode the temporal properties of acoustic stimuli by “locking” discharges to a particular phase of the input signal. Physiological specializations exist in gradients corresponding to the tonotopic axis in NM that reflect the characteristic frequency (CF) of their auditory nerve fiber inputs. One feature of NM neurons that has not been investigated across the tonotopic axis is short-term synaptic plasticity. NM offers a rather homogeneous population of neurons with a distinct topographical distribution of synaptic properties that is ideal for the investigation of specialized synaptic plasticity. Here we demonstrate for the first time that short-term synaptic depression (STD) is expressed topographically, where unitary high CF synapses are more robust with repeated stimulation. Correspondingly, high CF synapses drive spiking more reliably than their low CF counterparts. We show that postsynaptic AMPA receptor desensitization does not contribute to the observed difference in STD. Further, rate of recovery from depression, a presynaptic property, does not differ tonotopically. Rather, we show that another presynaptic feature, readily releasable pool (RRP) size, is tonotopically distributed and inversely correlated with vesicle release probability. Mathematical model results demonstrate that these properties of vesicle dynamics are sufficient to explain the observed tonotopic distribution of STD.
PMCID: PMC3898291  PMID: 24453322
tonotopy; topographic map; synaptic plasticity; short-term synaptic depression; release probability; readily releasable pool
2.  Tonotopic Organization of the Superior Olivary Nucleus in the Chicken Auditory Brainstem 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2012;520(7):1493-1508.
Topographic maps are salient features of neuronal organization in sensory systems. Inhibitory components of neuronal circuitry are often embedded within this organization, making them difficult to isolate experimentally. The auditory system provides opportunities to study the topographic organization of inhibitory long-range projection nuclei, such as the superior olivary nucleus (SON). We analyzed the topographic organization of response features of neurons in the SON of chickens. Quantitative methods were developed to assess and communicate this organization. These analyses led to three main conclusions: 1) sound frequency is linearly arranged from dorsal (low frequencies) to ventral (high frequencies) in SON; 2) this tonotopic organization is less precise than the organization of the excitatory nuclei in the chicken auditory brainstem; and 3) neurons with different response patterns to pure tone stimuli are interspersed throughout the SON and show similar tonotopic organizations. This work provides a predictive model to determine the optimal stimulus frequency for a neuron from its spatial location in the SON.
PMCID: PMC4033909  PMID: 22102107
auditory; inhibitory; superior olivary nucleus; three-dimensional tonotopic organization
3.  Glycinergic transmission modulates GABAergic inhibition in the avian auditory pathway 
For all neurons, a proper balance of synaptic excitation and inhibition is crucial to effect computational precision. Achievement of this balance is remarkable when one considers factors that modulate synaptic strength operate on multiple overlapping time scales and affect both pre- and postsynaptic elements. Recent studies have shown that inhibitory transmitters, glycine and GABA, are co-released in auditory nuclei involved in the computation of interaural time disparities (ITDs), a cue used to process sound source location. The co-release expressed at these synapses is heavily activity dependent, and generally occurs when input rates are high. This circuitry, in both birds and mammals, relies on inhibitory input to maintain the temporal precision necessary for ITD encoding. Studies of co-release in other brain regions suggest that GABA and glycine receptors (GlyRs) interact via cross-suppressive modulation of receptor conductance. We performed in vitro whole-cell recordings in several nuclei of the chicken brainstem auditory circuit to assess whether this cross-suppressive phenomenon was evident in the avian brainstem. We evaluated the effect of pressure-puff applied glycine on synaptically evoked inhibitory currents in nucleus magnocellularis (NM) and the superior olivary nucleus (SON). Glycine pre-application reduced the amplitude of inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) evoked during a 100 Hz train stimulus in both nuclei. This apparent glycinergic modulation was blocked in the presence of strychnine. Further experiments showed that this modulation did not depend on postsynaptic biochemical interactions such as phosphatase activity, or direct interactions between GABA and GlyR proteins. Rather, voltage clamp experiments in which we manipulated Cl− flux during agonist application suggest that activation of one receptor will modulate the conductance of the other via local changes in Cl− ion concentration within microdomains of the postsynaptic membrane.
PMCID: PMC3954080  PMID: 24672432
glycine; GABA; inhibition; cross-suppression; interaural time disparities
4.  Activity-dependent modulation of inhibitory synaptic kinetics in the cochlear nucleus 
Spherical bushy cells (SBCs) in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus respond to acoustic stimulation with discharges that precisely encode the phase of low-frequency sound. The accuracy of spiking is crucial for sound localization and speech perception. Compared to the auditory nerve input, temporal precision of SBC spiking is improved through the engagement of acoustically evoked inhibition. Recently, the inhibition was shown to be less precise than previously understood. It shifts from predominantly glycinergic to synergistic GABA/glycine transmission in an activity-dependent manner. Concurrently, the inhibition attains a tonic character through temporal summation. The present study provides a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms underlying this slow inhibitory input. We performed whole-cell voltage clamp recordings on SBCs from juvenile Mongolian gerbils and recorded evoked inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) at physiological rates. The data reveal activity-dependent IPSC kinetics, i.e., the decay is slowed with increased input rates or recruitment. Lowering the release probability yielded faster decay kinetics of the single- and short train-IPSCs at 100 Hz, suggesting that transmitter quantity plays an important role in controlling the decay. Slow transmitter clearance from the synaptic cleft caused prolonged receptor binding and, in the case of glycine, spillover to nearby synapses. The GABAergic component prolonged the decay by contributing to the asynchronous vesicle release depending on the input rate. Hence, the different factors controlling the amount of transmitters in the synapse jointly slow the inhibition during physiologically relevant activity. Taken together, the slow time course is predominantly determined by the receptor kinetics and transmitter clearance during short stimuli, whereas long duration or high frequency stimulation additionally engage asynchronous release to prolong IPSCs.
PMCID: PMC4274880  PMID: 25565972
inhibition; activity-dependent decay; re-uptake; intersynaptic pooling; asynchronous release; spherical bushy cell; cochlear nucleus
5.  GABAergic inhibition sharpens the frequency tuning and enhances phase locking in chicken nucleus magnocellularis neurons 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2010;30(36):12075-12083.
GABAergic modulation of activity in avian cochlear nucleus neurons has been studied extensively in vitro. However, how this modulation actually influences processing in vivo is not known. We investigated responses of chicken nucleus magnocellularis (NM) neurons to sound while pharmacologically manipulating the inhibitory input from the superior olivary nucleus (SON). SON receives excitatory inputs from nucleus angularis (NA) and nucleus laminaris (NL), and provides GABAergic inputs to NM, NA, NL, and putatively to the contralateral SON. Results from single unit extracellular recordings from 2–4 wks posthatch chickens show that firing rates of auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) increased monotonically with sound intensity, while that of NM neurons saturated or even decreased at moderate or loud sound levels. Blocking GABAergic input with local application of TTX into the SON induced an increase in firing rate of ipsilateral NM while that of the contralateral NM decreased at high sound levels. Moreover, local application of bicuculline to NM also increased the firing rate of NM neurons at high sound levels, reduced phase-locking, and broadened the frequency tuning properties of NM neurons. Following application of DNQX, clear evidence of inhibition was observed. Furthermore, the inhibition was tuned to a broader frequency range than the excitatory response areas. We conclude that GABAergic inhibition from SON has at least three physiological influences on the activity of NM neurons: it regulates the firing activity of NM units in a sound-level dependent manner; it improves phase selectivity; and it sharpens frequency tuning of NM neuronal responses.
PMCID: PMC3376706  PMID: 20826670
Superior olivary nucleus; Cochlear nucleus; Bicuculline; GABA; Auditory; In vivo
6.  The Cx43-like Connexin Protein Cx40.8 Is Differentially Localized during Fin Ontogeny and Fin Regeneration 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31364.
Connexins (Cx) are the subunits of gap junctions, membraneous protein channels that permit the exchange of small molecules between adjacent cells. Cx43 is required for cell proliferation in the zebrafish caudal fin. Previously, we found that a Cx43-like connexin, cx40.8, is co-expressed with cx43 in the population of proliferating cells during fin regeneration. Here we demonstrate that Cx40.8 exhibits novel differential subcellular localization in vivo, depending on the growth status of the fin. During fin ontogeny, Cx40.8 is found at the plasma membrane, but Cx40.8 is retained in the Golgi apparatus during regeneration. We next identified a 30 amino acid domain of Cx40.8 responsible for its dynamic localization. One possible explanation for the differential localization is that Cx40.8 contributes to the regulation of Cx43 in vivo, perhaps modifying channel activity during ontogenetic growth. However, we find that the voltage-gating properties of Cx40.8 are similar to Cx43. Together our findings reveal that Cx40.8 exhibits differential subcellular localization in vivo, dependent on a discrete domain in its carboxy terminus. We suggest that the dynamic localization of Cx40.8 differentially influences Cx43-dependent cell proliferation during ontogeny and regeneration.
PMCID: PMC3275562  PMID: 22347467

Results 1-6 (6)