• sensory neuron development;
  • growth cones;
  • cellular interactions;
  • synaptogenesis


The tangential nucleus is a primary vestibular nucleus located where the vestibular fibers enter the medulla. It is composed of neurons that migrate between 5 and 8 days in the chick embryo. Although primary vestibular fibers enter the medulla at 3 days, the first synapses are formed at 5 days on the processes of neuron precursors by longitudinally coursing fibers. Since the major components, or their precursors, are present at 3 days within the presumptive nucleus, we are interested in determining what cellular interactions occur among these structures following their entry and during the time leading up to synapse formatio.

At 2 days, prior to the appearance of VIIth and VIIIth nerve fibers in the medulla, the tangential nucleus anlage contained processes and endfeet of primitive epithelial cells, separated from each other by enlarged extracellular spaces. Longitudinal fibers first appeared within these spaces coincident with the appearance of root fibers, including some identified VIIth motor axons, associated with the primordial VII/VIIIth ganglia. By 3 days, some vestibular and VIIth nerve fibers could be identified by their ultrastructure and relative positions within the marginal zone and nerve roots. However, it was not until 4 days that the presumptive tangential nucleus acquired its orderly, characteristic organization. Although synapses were rare from 2 to 4 days, attachment plaques and coated pits were observed commonly between structures, especially between future synaptic structures. Thus, we confirm that synapse formation begins at 5 days. This represents the first detailed ultrastructural study of cranial sensory nerve ingrowth into the medull.