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J Neurosci. 1982 Jul;2(7):942-57.

Ribbon synapses in the developing intact and cultured organ of Corti in the mouse.


Over 100 synaptic ribbons were studied in the intact animal from birth to the 23rd day and over 500 were studied in the isolated organ up to 24 days in culture. Our findings suggest that synaptogenesis in the cochlea of the mouse occurs mainly postnatally and lasts at least 14 days. Afferent synapses of young cochleas are characterized by round ribbons which are attached to the presynaptic membrane by two rodlets, each surrounded by a discrete triangular density. The postsynaptic density is continuous and coextends with the presynaptic complex. The single layer of vesicles surrounding the dense body of the ribbon is disrupted by the presynaptic densities. In an afferent synapse of the adolescent animal, the predominant organelle is a plate ribbon--often laminated--which measures on the average approximately 1000 A wide, 2000 A tall, and 1500 A long (one section = 700 A). The ribbon is attached to a presynaptic density, arcuate in form; a row of synaptic vesicles is aligned along each side of the arcuate density. The presynaptic membrane forms a trough accommodating the ribbon. The postsynaptic density exceeds the territory of the ribbon. Similar development of the synapse also may be observed in culture. Structural variability of ribbons (seen especially in culture), clustering of ribbons, multiribbon synapses, and ribbon families seem to be characteristic of early development. The occurrence of ring-like or fenestrated ribbons in the intact adolescent animal suggests a limited life span of the organelle. A decrease in the ribbon population of the outer hair cells, to about 20% of the total number, occurs postnatally in the intact animal. A similar decrease occurs also in culture. This implies that the ribbon population is not affected by the efferent influx. The mature cochlear ribbon appears comparable to those of the retina and some ampullary organs of electric fishes.

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