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Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 1994 Oct 14;82(1-2):29-34.

Choline-acetyltransferase-like immunoreactivity in the organ of Corti of the rat during postnatal development.

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Departamento de Ciencias Morfológicas, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain.


The mammalian cochlea receives efferent innervation from neurons located in the superior olivary complex. This efferent olivocochlear innervation is divided in two separate systems, lateral and medial, which mainly innervate afferent dendrites connected to inner hair cells and the cell body of outer hair cells, respectively. Besides other substances, lateral and medial efferent terminals of the adult cochlea use acetylcholine (ACh) as a neurotransmitter. In this study, we have used immunocytochemistry to detect the presence of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), the synthesizing enzyme of ACh, in efferent olivocochlear terminals during the development of the rat. The appearance and distribution of immunoreactivity to ChAT has been studied in developing rat cochleas from birth (postnatal day 1, P1) to adulthood. Attention was paid to the temporal relationships between the expression of ChAT, the presence of other putative neuroactive substances, the onset of hearing and other developmental phenomena. Our results indicate that ChAT-like immunoreactivity is already present at birth (P1) in the region of inner hair cells, that it appears at P3 in the outer hair cell area and that it reaches an adult pattern of distribution by P15. ACh may thus be present early in the developing cochlea, before the onset of hearing, as it also occurs with other putative transmitters/modulators such as enkephalins, CGRP or GABA. It is suggested that ACh could be involved in the modulation of sound-evoked potentials as soon as they appear, and in the regulation of other developmental phenomena such as neurite outgrowth or synaptogenesis.

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