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Hear Res. 2000 Mar;141(1-2):1-11.

Synapses on human spiral ganglion cells: a transmission electron microscopy and immunohistochemical study.

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Department of Otolaryngology, University Hospital (Akademiska sjukhuset) of Uppsala, 751 85, Uppsala, Sweden.


A transmission electron microscopy (TEM) study and synaptophysin immunoreactivity analysis of neurons in the human spiral ganglion was performed with particular emphasis on the demonstration of synapses. The study was based on surgical biopsy material obtained during transcochlear meningioma surgery. Vesiculated nerve endings of unmyelinated nerve fibers occurred frequently on the small ganglion cells at all levels. The nerve terminals exhibited abundant clear synaptic vesicles but also dense-core vesicles. Multisynaptic contact sites were also seen with fibers of the intraganglionic spiral bundle (IGSB). Complex associations of synapses could be demonstrated, including several synaptic terminals in conjunction with contact sites or an adherent type of junctions on large ganglion cells. These contact sites exhibited membrane densities which were symmetric or asymmetric, changed their polarity recurrently over their extension from one cell to the other and back and lacked clear synaptic vesicles. This suggests the existence of connections between efferents, belonging to the olivocochlear bundle, and both small and large ganglion cells. Thus, both the inner and outer hair cell system may be under the influence of efferent innervation in the human spiral ganglion. The morphology and course of synaptophysin-positive nerve fibers indicated that synaptic contacts within the spiral ganglion, as observed under the electron microscope, may be abundant. These results indicate that complex neural processing may occur at the level of the spiral ganglion in man.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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