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Keywords:

  • BDNF;
  • NT-3;
  • truncated TrkB;
  • rat;
  • vestibular system

Abstract

The early development of the inner ear is largely determined by two members of the neurotrophic family: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin 3 (NT-3). Little information is available on the role of these neurotrophins during the late stages of vestibular development in the rat which take place during the first postnatal weeks. At this period where terminal synaptogenesis and maturation occur, we have investigated the expression and the activity of BDNF, the most important neurotrophin in the vestibular system. Using different experimental approaches, we show that BDNF is released by vestibular epithelia on postnatal day 3 (P3) and continues to have a trophic effect on vestibular neurones in vitro. Immunocytochemistry coupled to confocal microscopy revealed a remarkable evolution in BDNF localization during later stages of development. Whereas BDNF is present in both supporting cells and hair cells at P3, its distribution gradually changed and is highly compartmentalized within the upper part of supporting cells at P8 and P15. In parallel, we observed the presence of a truncated form of the BDNF receptor in sensory hair cells. These results suggest an original role for supporting cells, which could be involved in the release of BDNF during the late stages of synaptogenesis in mammalian vestibular epithelia. In particular, BDNF could participate to the set up of the calyx, a specific nerve structure surrounding type I vestibular hair cells.