The influence of inhibitory afferents on the development of postsynaptic dendritic arbors

Dan H. Sanes, Scott Markowitz, Joseph Bernstein, Jesse Wardlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The growth and maintenance of dendritic form is dependent on normally functioning excitatory afferents. We have now examined the development of dendritic arbors in the gerbil lateral superior olive (LSO), following contralateral cochlear removal at postnatal day 7, a manipulation that substantially eliminates driven inhibitory transmission. Previous studies have demonstrated that the morphology of LSO dendritic arbors varies with tonotopic position and becomes more restricted with age. The presumed decrease of inhibitory transmission in the contralateral LSO resulted in a hypertrophic response. Quantification of Golgi‐impregnated neurons revealed that dendrites had a significantly greater number of branch points, and their arbors were more spread out along the frequency axis compared to normal. This was especially apparent in the high frequency projection region where the glycine receptor density is known to be 4‐fold higher than in the low frequency projection region. A measure of LSO nucleus size, cross‐sectional area, was identical to control values, indicating no overt signs of degenerative phenomena. Cochlear ablation resulted in a significant atrophy of the ipsilateral LSO, with significant effects on dendritic structure. We conclude that decreased inhibitory transmission during development does not lead to a net degenerative response. Rather, the postsynaptic neurons exhibit a hypertrophic phenotype that may be due to the persistence of an immature state. These results indicate that activity‐dependent morphogenetic events are a consequence of both excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission. © 1992 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-644
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 22 1992


  • auditory pathways
  • dendrites
  • development
  • inhibition
  • lateral superior olive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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