Structural Changes and Lack of HCN1 Channels in the Binaural Auditory Brainstem of the Naked Mole-Rat (Heterocephalus glaber).
journal contributionposted on 11.05.2016 by N Gessele, E Garcia-Pino, D Omerbašić, TJ Park, U Koch
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Naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus glaber) live in large eu-social, underground colonies in narrow burrows and are exposed to a large repertoire of communication signals but negligible binaural sound localization cues, such as interaural time and intensity differences. We therefore asked whether monaural and binaural auditory brainstem nuclei in the naked mole-rat are differentially adjusted to this acoustic environment. Using antibody stainings against excitatory and inhibitory presynaptic structures, namely the vesicular glutamate transporter VGluT1 and the glycine transporter GlyT2 we identified all major auditory brainstem nuclei except the superior paraolivary nucleus in these animals. Naked mole-rats possess a well structured medial superior olive, with a similar synaptic arrangement to interaural-time-difference encoding animals. The neighboring lateral superior olive, which analyzes interaural intensity differences, is large and elongated, whereas the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body, which provides the contralateral inhibitory input to these binaural nuclei, is reduced in size. In contrast, the cochlear nucleus, the nuclei of the lateral lemniscus and the inferior colliculus are not considerably different when compared to other rodent species. Most interestingly, binaural auditory brainstem nuclei lack the membrane-bound hyperpolarization-activated channel HCN1, a voltage-gated ion channel that greatly contributes to the fast integration times in binaural nuclei of the superior olivary complex in other species. This suggests substantially lengthened membrane time constants and thus prolonged temporal integration of inputs in binaural auditory brainstem neurons and might be linked to the severely degenerated sound localization abilities in these animals.