Development and specificity of inhibitory terminal arborizations in the central nervous system

Dan H. Sanes, Veronica Siverls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the morphological development of single inhibitory arborizations in the gerbil central auditory brain stem. Using a brain slice preparation, neurons of the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB) were filled with horseradish peroxidase (HRP), and their complete arborizations were analyzed along the tonotopic axis of the lateral superior olive (LSO). The projections in neonatal animals displayed well‐defined arbors that were ordered appropriately within the LSO. It was evident from the axonal pathways that the MNTB afferents could correct for projection errors after reaching the postsynaptic population. As development progressed, a number of arbors established diffuse or inappropriate projections within the LSO. These immature arborizations were no longer apparent by 18–25 days postnatal. The anatomical specificity of arbors at 12–13 and 18–25 days was quantified by measuring the distance that terminal boutons spread across the frequency axis. There was a significant reduction of this distance in older animals. In addition, there was a significant reduction in the mean number of boutons per arbor between 12–13 days and 18–25 days. The maximum nucleus cross‐sectional area continued to increase through 15–16 days, indicating that the refined arbors occupied an even smaller fraction of the postsynaptic structure. Taken together, these observations suggest that central inhibitory arbors form exuberant contacts that must be eliminated during development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-854
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Neurobiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1991


  • afferents
  • auditory
  • inhibitory
  • lateral superior olive
  • morphometry
  • specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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