Branching of calyceal afferents during postnatal development in the rat auditory brainstem

Adrián Rodríguez-Contreeas, Robert P.J. De Lange, Paul J. Lucassen, J. Gerard G. Borst*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Cells in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (aVCN) send out calyceal axons that form large excitatory somatic terminals, the calyces of Held, onto principal cells of the contralateral medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB). It is unclear which fraction of these axons might form more than one calyx and whether this fraction changes during development. We combined in vitro anterograde tracing, stereological cell counts, analysis of apoptosis, and immunohistochemistry to study the development of calyceal afferents in rats of different postnatal ages. We found that some principal cells were contacted by multiple large axosomatic inputs, but these invariably originated from the same axon. Conversely, at least 18% of traced afferents branched to form multiple calyces, independently of age. Calyces from the same axon generally innervated nearby principal cells, and most of these branch points were <50 μm away from the synaptic terminals. Our results show that the projection from the aVCN to the MNTB is divergent, both when calyces have just been formed and in the adult. Cell counts did not provide evidence for principal cell loss during development, although analysis of apoptosis showed a large increase in nonneuronal cell death around the onset of hearing. Our data suggest that, once a calyceal synapse forms in the MNTB, it stays.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-228
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 10 2006


  • Apoptosis
  • Calyx of Held
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Convergence
  • Divergence
  • In vitro tracing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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