Time-dependent activity of primary auditory neurons in the presence of neurotrophins and antibiotics

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In vitro cultures provide a valuable tool in studies examining the survival, morphology and function of cells in the auditory system. Primary cultures of primary auditory neurons have most notably provided critical insights into the role of neurotrophins in cell survival and morphology. Functional studies have also utilized in vitro models to study neuronal physiology and the ion channels that dictate these patterns of activity. Here we examine what influence time-in-culture has on the activity of primary auditory neurons, and how this affects our interpretation of neurotrophin and antibiotic-mediated effects in this population. Using dissociated cell culture we analyzed whole-cell patch-clamp recordings of spiral ganglion neurons grown in the presence or absence of neurotrophins and/or penicillin and streptomycin for 1–3 days in vitro. Firing threshold decreased, and both action potential number and latency increased over time regardless of treatment, whilst input resistance was lowest where neurotrophins were present. Differences in firing properties were seen with neurotrophin concentration but were not consistently maintained over the 3 days in vitro. The exclusion of antibiotics from culture media influenced most firing properties at 1 day in vitro in both untreated and neurotrophin-treated conditions. The only difference still present at 3 days was an increase in input resistance in neurotrophin-treated neurons. These results highlight the potential of neurotrophins and antibiotics to influence neural firing patterns in vitro in a time-dependent manner, and advise the careful consideration of their impact on SGN function in future studies.

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