Postnatal development of GABAergic axon terminals in the rat nucleus of tractus solitarius.Brain Res 2006; 1107(1):111-20BR
The proper function of the brain depends on a precise arrangement of excitatory and inhibitory synapses. Although the caudal nucleus of tractus solitarius (cNTS) plays a pivotal role in cardiorespiratory reflexes, we know little about the formation of the local neural network in the cNTS. In the present study, we have focused on GABAergic axon terminals and investigated postnatal changes in GABAergic synaptic organizations in the rat cNTS immunocytochemically at both light and electron microscopic levels. Counting synaptic and non-synaptic GABAergic axon terminals revealed that GABAergic axon terminal number in the cNTS seemed constant until the second postnatal week and that GABAergic axon terminals were reorganized around postnatal day 10 (P10). Electron microscopic observation revealed that more than 20% GABAergic axon terminals formed axosomatic synapses at P2 to P4, but the number of GABAergic axosomatic synapse on neurons with smaller soma (smaller neurons) decreased considerably after P8. Orphan GABAergic boutons were present around somata of smaller neurons at P10, and axodendritic synapse number on thicker dendrites decreased gradually during postnatal development. These results show that GABAergic axon terminals detach from somata of smaller neurons at the second postnatal week. Such morphologic changes in axon terminals could cause changes in electrophysiological activity and might contribute to reorganization of the local network within the cNTS from neonatal to adult type. These postnatal changes in the cNTS local network might be prerequisite for the cardiorespiratory reflexes of the adult type.