Perinatal development of inhibitory synapses in the nucleus tractus solitarii of the rat.Eur J Neurosci. 2010 Aug; 32(4):538-49.EJ
The nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS) plays a key role in the central control of the autonomic nervous system. In adult rats, both GABA and glycine are used as inhibitory neurotransmitter in the NTS. Using a quantitative morphological approach, we have investigated the perinatal development of inhibitory synapses in the NTS. The density of both inhibitory axon terminals and synapses increased from embryonic day 20 until the end of the second postnatal week (postnatal day 14). Before birth, only GABAergic axon terminals developed and their number increased during the first postnatal week. Mixed GABA/glycine axon terminals appeared at birth and their number increased during the first postnatal week. This suggests the development of a mixed GABA/glycine inhibition in parallel to pure GABA inhibition. However, whereas GABAergic axon terminals were distributed throughout the NTS, mixed GABA/glycine axon terminals were strictly located in the lateral part of the NTS. Established at birth, this specific topography remained in the adult rat. From birth, GABA(A) receptors, glycine receptors and gephyrin were clustered in inhibitory synapses throughout the NTS, revealing a neurotransmitter-receptor mismatch within the medial part of the NTS. Together these results suggest that NTS inhibitory networks develop and mature until postnatal day 14. Developmental changes in NTS synaptic inhibition may play an important role in shaping neural network activity during a time of maturation of autonomic functions. The first two postnatal weeks could represent a critical period where the impact of the environment influences the physiological phenotypes of adult rats.