Short-term plasticity and modulation of synaptic transmission at mammalian inhibitory cholinergic olivocochlear synapses

Eleonora Katz, Ana Belén Elgoyhen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The organ of Corti, the mammalian sensory epithelium of the inner ear, has two types of mechanoreceptor cells, inner hair cells (IHCs) and outer hair cells (OHCs). In this sensory epithelium, vibrations produced by sound waves are transformed into electrical signals. When depolarized by incoming sounds, IHCs release glutamate and activate auditory nerve fibers innervating them and OHCs, by virtue of their electromotile property, increase the amplification and fine tuning of sound signals. The medial olivocochlear (MOC) system, an efferent feedback system, inhibits OHC activity and thereby reduces the sensitivity and sharp tuning of cochlear afferent fibers. During neonatal development, IHCs fire Ca2+ action potentials which evoke glutamate release promoting activity in the immature auditory system in the absence of sensory stimuli. During this period, MOC fibers also innervate IHCs and are thought to modulate their firing rate. Both the MOC-OHC and the MOC-IHC synapses are cholinergic, fast and inhibitory and mediated by the a9a10 nicotinic cholinergic receptor (nAChR) coupled to the activation of calcium-activated potassium channels that hyperpolarize the hair cells. In this review we discuss the biophysical, functional and molecular data which demonstrate that at the synapses between MOC efferent fibers and cochlear hair cells, modulation of transmitter release as well as short term synaptic plasticity mechanisms, operating both at the presynaptic terminal and at the postsynaptic hair-cell, determine the efficacy of these synapses and shape the hair cell response pattern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number224
JournalFrontiers in Systems Neuroscience
Issue numberDEC
StatePublished - Dec 2 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Calcium channels
  • Calcium-activated potassium channels
  • Cochlear hair cells
  • Efferent innervation
  • GABAB receptors
  • Medial olivocochlear system
  • Short-term synaptic plasticity
  • Synaptic transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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