The chick tangential nucleus is a major vestibular nucleus whose principal cells receive convergent inputs from primary vestibular and nonvestibular fibers and participate in the vestibular reflexes. During development, the principal cells gradually acquire the mature firing pattern in part by losing a specific potassium current around hatching (H). Here we focus on characterizing the expression of connexin 43 (Cx43), a gap junction protein found mainly between astrocytes in the mature brain. The astrocytic syncytium plays an important role in maintaining extracellular potassium ion balance in the brain. Accordingly, it is important to characterize the potential of this syncytium to communicate during the critical developmental age of hatching. Using fluorescence immunocytochemistry, we investigated whether Cx43 staining was concentrated in specific cellular compartments at H1 by applying well-known markers for astrocytes (glial fibrillary acidic protein; GFAP), oligodendrocytes (antimyelin), neurons (microtubule-associated protein 2), and synaptic terminals (synaptotagmin). GFAP-positive astrocytes and GFAP-negative nonneuronal cells around the principal cell bodies were labeled with Cx43, suggesting that Cx43 was expressed exclusively by nonneuronal cells near the neuronal elements. Next, the developmental pattern of expression of Cx43 was studied at embryonic day 16 (E16), H1, and H9. At E16, Cx43 was present weakly as random small clusters in the tangential nucleus, whereas, at H1, overall staining became localized, with increases in size, brightness, and number of immunostained clusters. Finally, at H9, Cx43 staining decreased, but cluster size and location remained unchanged. These results suggest that Cx43 is developmentally regulated with a peak at birth and is associated primarily with astrocytes and nonneuronal cells near the principal cell bodies.
- Confocal microscopy
- Gap junction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience