Development of the cochlear innervation of the dorsal cochlear nucleus of the hamster.
The development of cochlear fibers and terminals in the dorsal cochlear nucleus of the hamster was studied with light and electron microscopic techniques. Like the dorsal cochlear nucleus of most other mammals, the dorsal cochlear nucleus of the adult hamster is a laminated structure. Three distinct layers can be identified in cresyl-violet-stained sections: the molecular layer, the fusiform cell layer, and the deep layer. The deep layer consists of a superficial zone, free of large cell bodies, and a deep zone which contains the somas of giant cells. Horseradish peroxidase and degeneration studies reveal that the cochlear fibers ramify throughout the deep and fusiform cell layers of the adult hamster but do not enter the molecular layer. In the electron microscope, three types of terminals that contact the fusiform and the giant cells can be distinguished. Only one type of terminal (type LR) degenerates after cochlear ablation and is, therefore, thought to be of cochlear origin. Type LR terminals are found throughout the deep and fusiform cell layers and contact the somas of giant and fusiform cells, as well as their intermingled dendrites in the deep layer. In Golgi-impregnated material, cochlear fibers are not found in the dorsal cochlear nucleus of the neonatal hamster, although they have entered the ventral cochlear nucleus. Ingrowth of cochlear fibers into the dorsal cochlear nucleus occurs over the first postnatal week and one-half. A spatial gradient is evident during the ingrowth of the fibers in that they invade the dorsomedial parts of the dorsal cochlear nucleus before they invade the ventrolateral parts. In all parts of the nucleus, the fibers enter the deepest layer and grow progressively more superficially. In the electron microscope, the first appearance of type LR terminals at each depth lags behind the ingrowth of the fibers by about two days. In hamsters, fibers from the basal turns of the cochlea terminate in the dorsomedial dorsal cochlear nucleus, while fibers from the apical turns terminate in the ventrolateral dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN). The dorsomedial to ventrolateral gradient in the ingrowth of the cochlear fibers into the DCN indicates that the fibers from the basal turn are the first to arrive. Several components of the mammalian cochlea have been shown to mature at the base of the cochlea before they mature at the apex. The present study suggests that maturation gradients in the cochlear nucleus parallel those observed in the cochlea.
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