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Large somatic synapses on neurons in the ventral lateral lemniscus work in pairs

J Neurosci 34: 3237-46. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3664-13.2014.

Authors/Editors: Berger C
Meyer EM
Ammer JJ
Felmy F
Publication Date: 2014
Type of Publication: Journal Articles 2001 - 2017

Abstract

In the auditory system, large somatic synapses convey strong excitation that supports temporally precise information transfer. The information transfer of such synapses has predominantly been investigated in the endbulbs of Held in the anterior ventral cochlear nucleus and the calyx of Held in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body. These large synapses either work as relays or integrate over a small number of inputs to excite the postsynaptic neuron beyond action potential (AP) threshold. In the monaural system, another large somatic synapse targets neurons in the ventral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus (VNLL). Here, we comparatively analyze the mechanisms of synaptic information transfer in endbulbs in the VNLL and the calyx of Held in juvenile Mongolian gerbils. We find that endbulbs in the VNLL are functionally surface-scaled versions of the calyx of Held with respect to vesicle availability, release efficacy, and synaptic peak currents. This functional scaling is achieved by different calcium current kinetics that compensate for the smaller AP in VNLL endbulbs. However, the average postsynaptic current in the VNLL fails to elicit APs in its target neurons, even though equal current suffices to generate APs in neurons postsynaptic to the calyx of Held. In the VNLL, a postsynaptic A-type outward current reduces excitability and prevents AP generation upon a single presynaptic input. Instead, coincidence detection of inputs from two converging endbulbs is ideal to reliably trigger APs. Thus, even large endbulbs do not guarantee one-to-one AP transfer. Instead, information flow appears regulated by circuit requirements.

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