Development of synaptic networks in the mouse vagal pathway revealed by optical mapping with a voltage-sensitive dye

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Abstract

The central issue in developmental neuroscience is when and how neural synaptic networks are established and become functional within the central nervous system (CNS). Investigations of the neural network organization have been hampered because conventional electrophysiological means have some technical limitations. In this study, the multiple-site optical recording technique with a voltage-sensitive dye was employed to survey the developmental organization of the vagal system in the mouse embryo. Stimulation of the vagus nerve in E11–E14 mouse embryos elicited optical responses in areas corresponding to the vagal sensory and motor nuclei. Postsynaptic responses in the first-order sensory nucleus, the nucleus of the tractus solitarius (NTS), were identified from E11, suggesting that sensory information becomes transferred to the brain at this stage. In addition to the NTS, optical responses were identified in the rostral and contralateral brainstem regions, which corresponded to second/higher order nuclei of the vagus nerve including the parabrachial nucleus (PBN). Postsynaptic responses in the second/higher-order nuclei were detected from E12, suggesting that polysynaptic networks were functional at this stage. We discuss the results of our optical mapping, comparing them with previous findings obtained in the chick and rat embryos, and suggest some fundamental principles in the functional organization of synaptic networks in the embryonic brain.

The multiple-site optical recording technique with a voltage-sensitive dye was employed to survey the developmental organization of the vagal system in the mouse embryo. Stimulation of the vagus nerve in E11 to E14 mouse embryos elicited optical responses in areas corresponding to the vagal sensory and motor nuclei. Postsynaptic responses in the first-order sensory nucleus, the nucleus of the tractus solitarius (NTS), were identified from E11, suggesting that sensory information becomes transferred to the brain at this stage. Postsynaptic responses in the second/higher-order nuclei including the parabrachial nucleus (PBN) were detected from E12, suggesting that polysynaptic networks were functional at this stage. Comparison of the results obtained in the mouse with those reported previously in the chick and rat embryos revealed several common characteristics in neural circuit formation along the vagal pathway between species, especially between the rat and mouse embryos.

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