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Keywords:

  • glia;
  • deafferentation;
  • neural plasticity;
  • image analysis

Abstract

The removal of afferent activity has been reported to modify neuronal activity in the cochlear nucleus of adult rats. After cell damage, microglial cells are rapidly activated, initiating a series of cellular responses that influences neuronal function and survival. To investigate how this glial response occurs and how it might influence injured neurons, bilateral cochlear ablations were performed on adult rats to examine the short-term (16 and 24 hours and 4 and 7 days) and long-term (15, 30, and 100 days) changes in the distribution and morphology of microglial cells (immunostained with the ionized calcium-binding adaptor molecule 1; Iba-1) and the interaction of microglial cells with deafferented neurons in the ventral cochlear nucleus. A significant increase in the mean cross-sectional area and Iba-1 immunostaining of microglial cells in the cochlear nucleus was observed at all survival times after the ablation compared with control animals. These increases were concomitant with an increase in the area of Iba-1 immunostaining at 24 hours and 4, 7, and 15 days postablation. Additionally, microglial cells were frequently seen apposing the cell bodies and dendrites of auditory neurons at 7, 15, and 30 days postablation. In summary, these results provide evidence for persistent glial activation in the ventral cochlear nucleus and suggest that long-term interaction occurs between microglial cells and deafferented cochlear nucleus neurons following bilateral cochlear ablation, which could facilitate the remodeling of the affected neuronal circuits. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:2974–2990, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.