• superior olivary complex;
  • transcriptome;
  • serial analysis of gene expression;
  • energy metabolism;
  • central auditory processing disorders


The superior olivary complex (SOC) is a very conspicuous structure in the mammalian auditory brainstem. It represents the first binaural processing center and is important for sound localization in the azimuth and in feedback regulation of cochlear function. In order to define molecular determinants of the SOC, which are of potential functional relevance, we have performed a comprehensive analysis of its transcriptome by serial analysis of gene expression in adult rats. Here, we performed a detailed analysis of the SOC's gene expression profile compared to that of two other neural tissues, the striatum and the hippocampus, and with extraocular muscle tissue. This tested the hypothesis that SOC-specific or significantly upregulated transcripts provide candidates for the specific function of auditory neurons. Thirty-three genes were significantly upregulated in the SOC when compared to the two other neural tissues. Thirteen encoded proteins involved in neurotransmission, including action potential propagation, exocytosis, and myelination; five genes are important for the energy metabolism, and five transcripts are unknown or poorly characterized and have yet to be described in the nervous system. The comparison of functional gene classes indicates that the SOC has the highest energy demand of the three neural tissues, yet protein turnover is apparently not increased. This suggests a high energy demand for fueling auditory neurotransmission. Such a demand may have implications on auditory-specific tasks and relate to central auditory processing disorders. Ultimately, these data provide new avenues to foster investigations of auditory function and to advance molecular physiology in the central auditory system. Anat Rec Part A, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.