Morphological modifications of two subcortical vibrissal relays were analyzed, following destruction of vibrissal follicles in newborn mice. The volume of the nucleus interpolaris (NI) of the trigeminal nuclear complex in the brainstem decreased by 33%, while the number of its neuronal perikarya decreased only moderately. Vibrissal deafferentation caused no shrinkage of the ventrobasal complex (VB). In the damaged medial vibrissal part of VB (VBm), however, neuronal density was higher than normal, indicating the prevention or retardation of physiologically programmed cell death in the afferentation deprived thalamic somatosensory relay station. It is suggested that the difference in neuron density produced by deafferentation is related to the states of maturation at birth of the two subcortical vibrissal relays. Following vibrissal deafferentation the basic organization of the synaptic neuropil appeared to be similar to the control. Quantitative electron microscopic (EM) analysis revealed, however, an increased number of axon terminals with ovoid synaptic vesicles in both deafferented relay stations. The increased density of gamma‐aminobutyric acid (GABA)‐immunostained boutons observed in the VBm following vibrissal deprivation suggested a compensatory increase most probably of the inhibitory axon endings. Quantitative EM analysis also provided evidence that many or most of the specific afferent terminals in the damaged VBm were not identical with but were substitutes for the original “vibrissal” specific afferents. Forty percent of all “specific” afferents were shown to be modified corticothalamic terminals. The modification and the resemblence of some cortical endings to specific afferents demonstrated the morphogenetic plasticity of synaptogenesis in these terminals during development as well as the importance and inductive potential of the postsynaptic target in the differentiation of presynaptic axon terminals.
- morphogenetic plasticity
- sensory trigeminal complex
- ventrobasal complex
- vibrissal follicle destruction
ASJC Scopus subject areas