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J Neurophysiol. 2005 Jan;93(1):251-66. Epub 2004 Jul 7.

Comparative morphology of rodent vestibular periphery. I. Saccular and utricular maculae.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Illinois at Chicago, M/C 512 808 S. Wood St., Room 578, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.
U IL, Chicago


Calyx afferents, a group of morphologically and physiologically distinct afferent fibers innervating the striolar region of vestibular sensory epithelia, are selectively labeled by antibodies to the calcium-binding protein calretinin. In this study, the population of calretinin-stained calyx afferents was used to delineate and quantify the striolar region in six rodent species: mouse, rat, gerbil, guinea pig, chinchilla, and tree squirrel. Morphometric studies and hair cell and calyx afferent counts were done. Numbers of hair cells, area, length, and width of the sensory epithelium increase from mouse to tree squirrel. In the mouse and rat, calretinin is found in 5-9% of all type I hair cells, 20-40% of striolar type II hair cells, and 70-80% of extrastriolar type II hair cells. Numbers of calyx afferents increase from mouse to squirrel, with more complex calyx afferents in larger species. About 10% of calyx afferents are branched. Based on our counts of total numbers of calyx afferents in chinchilla maculae and in comparison to fiber counts in the literature, the proportion of calyx afferents is greater than previously described, constituting nearly 20% of the total. Because morphometric measures increase with body weight, we obtained additional data on vestibular end organ surface areas from the literature and used this to construct a power law function describing this relationship. The function holds for species with body weights less than approximately 4 kg. Greater than 4 kg, the surface area of the sensory epithelia remains constant even with increasing body weight.

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