The Journal of comparative neurology

Efferent innervation of turtle semicircular canal cristae: comparisons with bird and mouse.

PMID 25560461


In the vestibular periphery of nearly every vertebrate, cholinergic vestibular efferent neurons give rise to numerous presynaptic varicosities that target hair cells and afferent processes in the sensory neuroepithelium. Although pharmacological studies have described the postsynaptic actions of vestibular efferent stimulation in several species, characterization of efferent innervation patterns and the relative distribution of efferent varicosities among hair cells and afferents are also integral to understanding how efferent synapses operate. Vestibular efferent markers, however, have not been well characterized in the turtle, one of the animal models used by our laboratory. Here we sought to identify reliable efferent neuronal markers in the vestibular periphery of turtle, to use these markers to understand how efferent synapses are organized, and to compare efferent neuronal labeling patterns in turtle with two other amniotes using some of the same markers. Efferent fibers and varicosities were visualized in the semicircular canal of red-eared turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans), zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), and mice (Mus musculus) utilizing fluorescent immunohistochemistry with antibodies against choline acetyltransferase (ChAT). Vestibular hair cells and afferents were counterstained using antibodies to myosin VIIa and calretinin. In all species, ChAT labeled a population of small diameter fibers giving rise to numerous spherical varicosities abutting type II hair cells and afferent processes. That these ChAT-positive varicosities represent presynaptic release sites were demonstrated by colabeling with antibodies against the synaptic vesicle proteins synapsin I, SV2, or syntaxin and the neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide. Comparisons of efferent innervation patterns among the three species are discussed.

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