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Exp Brain Res. 2004 Apr;155(3):265-73. Epub 2003 Dec 19.

Ultrastructural observations of efferent terminals in the crista Ampullaris of the toadfish, opsanus tau.

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Department of Neurology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, One Gustave L. Levy Place, Box 1140, New York, NY 10029, USA.


The present study was conducted to visualize the ultrastructural features of vestibular efferent boutons in the oyster toadfish, Opsanus tau. The crista ampullaris of the horizontal semicircular canal was processed for and examined by routine transmission electron microscopy. The results demonstrate that such boutons vary in size and shape, and contain a heterogeneous population of lucent vesicles with scattered dense core vesicles. Efferent contacts with hair cells are characterized by local vesicle accumulations in the presynaptic terminal and a subsynaptic cistern in the postsynaptic region of the hair cell. Serial efferent to hair cell to afferent synaptic arrangements are common, particularly in the central portion of the crista. However, direct contacts between efferent terminals and afferent neurites were not observed in our specimens. The existence of serial synaptic contacts, often with a row of vesicles in the efferent boutons lining the efferent-afferent membrane apposition, suggests that the efferent influence on the crista may involve both synaptic and nonsynaptic, secretory mechanisms. Further, it is suggested that differences in more subtle aspects of synaptic architecture and/or transmitter and receptor localization and interaction may render the efferent innervation of the peripheral crista less effective in influencing sensory processing.

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