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J Neurophysiol. 2009 Aug;102(2):1287-95. doi: 10.1152/jn.91272.2008. Epub 2009 May 27.

Two distinct types of inhibition mediated by cartwheel cells in the dorsal cochlear nucleus.

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Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7070, USA.


Individual neurons have been shown to exhibit target cell-specific synaptic function in several brain areas. The time course of the postsynaptic conductances (PSCs) strongly influences the dynamics of local neural networks. Cartwheel cells (CWCs) are the most numerous inhibitory interneurons in the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN). They are excited by parallel fiber synapses, which carry polysensory information, and in turn inhibit other CWCs and the main projection neurons of the DCN, pyramidal cells (PCs). CWCs have been implicated in "context-dependent" inhibition, producing either depolarizing (other CWCs) or hyperpolarizing (PCs) post synaptic potentials. In the present study, we used paired whole cell recordings to examine target-dependent inhibition from CWCs in neonatal rat DCN slices. We found that CWC inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) onto PCs are large (1.3 mV) and brief (half-width = 11.8 ms), whereas CWC IPSPs onto other CWCs are small (0.2 mV) and slow (half-width = 36.8 ms). Evoked IPSPs between CWCs exhibit paired-pulse facilitation, while CWC IPSPs onto PCs exhibit paired-pulse depression. Perforated-patch recordings showed that spontaneous IPSPs in CWCs are hyperpolarizing at rest with a mean estimated reversal potential of -67 mV. Spontaneous IPSCs were smaller and lasted longer in CWCs than in PCs, suggesting that the kinetics of the receptors are different in the two cell types. These results reveal that CWCs play a dual role in the DCN. The CWC-CWC network interactions are slow and sensitive to the average rate of CWC firing, whereas the CWC-PC network is fast and sensitive to transient changes in CWC firing.

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