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J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2009 Mar;10(1):64-75. doi: 10.1007/s10162-008-0144-9. Epub 2008 Oct 22.

Olivocochlear neuron central anatomy is normal in alpha 9 knockout mice.

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Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


Olivocochlear (OC) neurons were studied in a transgenic mouse with deletion of the alpha 9 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit. In this alpha 9 knockout mouse, the peripheral effects of OC stimulation are lacking and the peripheral terminals of OC neurons under outer hair cells have abnormal morphology. To account for this mouse's apparently normal hearing, it has been proposed to have central compensation via collateral branches to the cochlear nucleus. We tested this idea by staining OC neurons for acetylcholinesterase and examining their morphology in knockout mice, wild-type mice of the same background strain, and CBA/CaJ mice. Knockout mice had normal OC systems in terms of numbers of OC neurons, dendritic patterns, and numbers of branches to the cochlear nucleus. The branch terminations were mainly to edge regions and to a lesser extent the core of the cochlear nucleus, and were similar among the strains in terms of the distribution and staining density. These data demonstrate that there are no obvious changes in the central morphology of the OC neurons in alpha 9 knockout mice and make less attractive the idea that there is central compensation for deletion of the peripheral receptor in these mice.

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