Functional subgroups of cochlear inner hair cell ribbon synapses differently modulate their EPSC properties in response to stimulation

Mamiko Niwa, Eric D Young, Elisabeth Glowatzki, Anthony J. Ricci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) form single synapses on inner hair cells (IHCs), transforming sound-induced IHC receptor potentials into trains of action potentials. SGN neurons are classified by spontaneous firing rates as well as their threshold response to sound intensity levels. We investigated the hypothesis that synaptic specializations underlie mouse SGN response properties and vary with pillar versus modiloar synapse location around the hair cell. Depolarizing hair cells with 40 mM K+ increased the rate of postsynaptic responses. Pillar synapses matured later than modiolar synapses. Excitatory postsynaptic current (EPSC) amplitude, area, and number of underlying events per EPSC were similar between synapse locations at steady state. However, modiolar synapses produced larger monophasic EPSCs when EPSC rates were low and EPSCs became more multiphasic and smaller in amplitude when rates were higher, while pillar synapses produced more monophasic and larger EPSCs when the release rates were higher. We propose that pillar and modiolar synapses have different operating points. Our data provide insight into underlying mechanisms regulating EPSC generation.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Data presented here provide the first direct functional evidence of late synaptic maturation of the hair cell- spiral ganglion neuron synapse, where pillar synapses mature after postnatal day 20. Data identify a presynaptic difference in release during stimulation. This difference may in part drive afferent firing properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2461-2479
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021


  • auditory
  • deconvolution
  • inner hair cell
  • spiral ganglion
  • synapses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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