, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 537-570

Fine structure of granule cells and related interneurons (termed Golgi cells) in the cochlear nuclear complex of cat, rat and mouse

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Summary

This paper describes the fine structure of granule cells and granule-associated interneurons (termed Golgi cells) in the cochlear nuclei of cat, rat and mouse. Granule cells and Golgi cells are present in defined regions of ventral and dorsal cochlear nuclei collectively termed ‘cochlear granule cell domain’.

The granule cells are small neurons with two or three short dendrites that give rise to a few branches with terminal expansions. These participate in glomerular synaptic arrays similar to those of the cerebellar cortex. In the glomeruli the dendrites form short type 1 synapses with a large, centrally-located mossy bouton containing round synaptic vesicles and type 2 synapses with peripherally located, smaller boutons containing pleomorphic vesicles. The granule cell axon is thin and beaded and, on its way to the molecular layer of the DCN, takes a straight course, which in the ventral nucleus is parallel to the pial surface.

Neurons of the second category resemble cerebellar Golgi cells and occur everywhere interspersed among the granule cells. They are usually larger than the granule cells and give rise to dendrites which may branch close to and curve around the cell body. The dendrites contain numerous mitochondria and are laden with thin appendages, giving them a hairy appearance. Both the cell body and the stem dendrites participate in glomerular synaptic arrays. Golgi cell glomeruli are distinguishable from the granule cell glomeruli by unique features of the dendritic profiles and by longer, type 1 synaptic junctions with the central mossy bouton. The Golgi cell axon forms a beaded plexus close to the parent cell body.

The synaptic vesicle population of the mossy boutons suggests that they are a heterogeneous group and may have multiple origins. Apparently, each of the various classes participates in both granule and Golgi cell glomeruli. The smaller peripheral boutons with pleomorphic vesicles in the two types of glomeruli may represent Golgi cell axons which make synaptic contacts with both granule and Golgi cells. The Golgi cell dendrites, on the other hand, are also contacted by small boutonsen passant with round synaptic vesicles, which may represent granule cell axons. A tentative scheme of the circuitry in the cochlear granule cell domain is presented. The similarity with the cerebellar granule cell layer is striking.