Patterns of glutamate, glycine, and GABA immunolabeling in four synaptic terminal classes in the lateral superior olive of the guinea pig.J Comp Neurol. 1992 Sep 15; 323(3):305-25.JC
The goal of this study was to correlate synaptic ultrastructure with transmitter specificity and function in the lateral superior olive (LSO), a nucleus that is thought to play a major role in sound localization. This was accomplished by means of postembedding immunogold immunocytochemistry. Four classes of synaptic terminals were identified in the LSO. They were distinguishable from one another both morphologically and on the basis of their different patterns of immunolabeling for glutamate, glycine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The highest level of glutamate immunoreactivity was found in terminals that contained round vesicles (R) and formed synaptic contacts with asymmetric synaptic junctions. Round-vesicle terminals predominated on small caliber dendrites by a ratio of at least 2:1 over the other classes combined. The thinnest dendrites were typically contacted by R terminals only. The ratio of R terminals to the other types decreased as the caliber of the dendritic profiles they apposed increased so that on the soma, R terminals were outnumbered by at least 2:1 by the other types. Terminals containing flattened vesicles (F) exhibited intense immunoreactivity for both glycine and glutamate, although the glutamate immunolabeling was not as high as that in the R terminals. Flattened-vesicle terminals formed symmetric synaptic contacts with their targets and their distribution was the reverse of that described for R terminals; i.e., they were most abundant on LSO perikarya and fewest on small caliber dendrites. Two terminal types, both containing pleomorphic vesicles and forming symmetric synaptic junctions, were found in far fewer numbers. One group contained large pleomorphic vesicles (LP) and was immunoreactive for both glycine and GABA. The other group contained small pleomorphic vesicles (SP) along with a few dense-core vesicles and labeled for GABA only. The LP terminals were preferentially distributed on somata and large-caliber dendrites, while the SP terminals most often contacted smaller dendrites. Previous work suggests that a large percentage of the R terminals arise from spherical cells in the ipsilateral cochlear nucleus and are excitatory in action. This pathway may use glutamate as a transmitter. Many of the F terminals are thought to originate from the ipsilateral medial nucleus of the trapezoid body and appear to be the inhibitory (glycinergic) terminals from a pathway that originates from the contralateral ear. The origins and functions of LP and SP terminals are unknown, but a few possibilities are discussed along with the significance of cocontainment of neuroactive substances in specific terminal types.