Cellular projections from sensory hair cells form polarity-specific scaffolds during synaptogenesis.
The assembly of a nervous system requires the extension of axons and dendrites to specific regions where they are matched with appropriate synaptic targets. Although the cues that guide long-range outgrowth have been characterized extensively, additional mechanisms are required to explain short-range guidance in neural development. Using a complementary combination of time-lapse imaging by fluorescence confocal microscopy and serial block-face electron microscopy, we identified a novel type of presynaptic projection that participates in the assembly of the vertebrate nervous system. Synapse formation by each hair cell of the zebrafish's lateral line occurs during a particular interval after the cell's birth. During the same period, projections emerge from the cellular soma, extending toward a specific subpopulation of mature hair cells and interacting with polarity-specific afferent nerve terminals. The terminals then extend along the projections to reach appropriately matched presynaptic sites, after which the projections recede. Our results suggest that presynaptic projections act as transient scaffolds for short-range partner matching, a mechanism that may occur elsewhere in the nervous system.
Dow, E; Siletti, K; Hudspeth, AJ
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