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Neuroscience. 1988 Jan;24(1):29-38.

Immunoelectron microscopy identifies several types of GABA-containing efferent synapses in the guinea-pig organ of Corti.

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INSERM-U.254, Montpellier, France.


Using an immunoperoxidase technique, we have localized by light and electron microscopy GABA-immunostained fibers within a component of the efferent innervation of the organ of Corti. At the light microscopic level, GABA-immunostained fibers were observed within the inner spiral bundle (below the inner hair cells) and the tunnel spiral bundle. The immunostaining was clearly more intense in the upper turns than in the basal turns. Mostly in the upper turns, GABA-immunostained fibers were seen crossing the tunnel of Corti to reach the outer hair cells where they formed large immunostained patches at the base of the cells. Unevenly distributed throughout these upper turns, immunostained fibers were seen climbing along the outer hair cells and traveling near the non-sensorineural Hensen's cells. The electron microscopic observations of GABA-immunostained fibers in the upper turns allowed us to identify within the inner spiral bundle vesiculated varicosities synapsing with radial dendrites connected to the inner hair cells. In the outer hair cell area, the GABA-immunostained fibers made several kinds of synaptic contacts. They included a minor population of the large axosomatic synapses with the basal pole of the outer hair cells and many axodendritic synapses with the spiral dendrites connected to these cells. Occasionally, the GABA-immunostained climbing fibers also synapsed with the outer hair cells at a supranuclear level. These result confirm previous light microscopic data dealing with the projection of the GABA-immunostained fibers along the cochlear partition. Moreover, they extend them in characterizing several kinds of GABA-immunostained synapses. These latter findings agree with previous neurochemical electrophysiological data which suggests an efferent neurotransmitter role for GABA. Nevertheless, such an existence of an efferent innervation predominantly projecting to the upper turns of the cochlea adds another criterion distinguishing the "apical" from the "basal" cochlea.

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