Internal organization of membranes at end bulbs of Held in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus. Academic Article uri icon


  • The end of bulb of Held in the rostral ventral cochlear nucleus of the chinchilla and guinea pig was studied with the freeze-fracture technique. The end bulb has multiple, small active zones which are uniformly distributed within the calyceal portion of this terminal. Single or small groups of active zones are surrounded by enlarged channels of extracellular space often containing processes of astrocytes. Small plasmalemmal deformations occur at these active zones. The number of these deformations is thought to be indicative of exocytotic transmitter release because they are more frequent in animals fixed in a noisy environment compared to animals fixed in a quiet environment. Thus, our study provides a basis for the quantitative study of changes in transmitter secretion at a central nervous system synapse driven by a controllable natural stimulus. The postsynaptic active zone at end bulbs resembles other excitatory synapses in the central nervous system in having an aggregate of large particles on the external membrane leaflet. This junctional aggregate of particles is coextensive with the presynaptic active zone and with the postsynaptic density seen in thin sections. Several perisynaptic aggregates of particles are deployed around each active zone on the external membrane leaflet. These irregularly-shaped aggregates occur preferentially opposite the channels of enlarged extracellular space and along the edge of the end bulb and are not components of intercellular junctions or plasmalemmal contacts with cytoplasmic organelles. Although the function of the different particle aggregates on the postsynaptic membrane is not clear, our findings provide a basis for studying the factors controlling and maintaining their structure as well as more evidence that a consistent relationship exists between types of synaptic action and structure of the postsynaptic membrane.

publication date

  • August 15, 1978