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Adaptation of chicken vestibular nucleus neurons to unilateral vestibular ganglionectomy.

M Shao, A Popratiloff, J Yi, A Lerner, J C Hirsch, K D Peusner

Neuroscience, 2009 Jul 21 , 161, 988-1007

Vestibular compensation refers to the behavioral recovery after a unilateral peripheral vestibular lesion. In chickens, posture and balance deficits are present immediately following unilateral vestibular ganglionectomy (UVG). After three days, most operated chickens begin to recover, but severe deficits persist in others. The tangential nucleus is a major avian vestibular nucleus whose principal cells are vestibular reflex projection neurons. From patch-clamp recordings on brain slices, the percentage of spontaneous spike firing principal cells, spike discharge rate, ionic conductances, and spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) were investigated one and three days after UVG. Already by one day after UVG, sEPSC frequency increased significantly on the lesion side, although no differences were detected in the percentage of spontaneous spike firing cells or discharge rate. In compensated chickens three days after UVG, the percentage of spontaneous spike firing cells increased on the lesion side and the discharge rate increased bilaterally. In uncompensated chickens three days after UVG, principal cells on the lesion side showed increased discharge rate and increased sEPSC frequency, whereas principal cells on the intact side were silent. Typically, silent principal cells exhibited smaller persistent sodium conductances and higher activation thresholds for the fast sodium channel than spiking cells. In addition, silent principal cells on the intact side of uncompensated chickens had larger dendrotoxin-sensitive potassium conductance, with a higher ratio of Kv1.1 surface/cytoplasmic expression. Increased sEPSC frequency in principal cells on the lesion side of uncompensated chickens was accompanied by decreased Kv1.2 immunolabeling of presynaptic terminals on principal cell bodies. Thus, both intrinsic ionic conductances and excitatory synaptic inputs play crucial roles at early stages after lesions. Unlike the principal cells in compensated chickens which showed similar percentages of spontaneous spike firing cells, discharge rates, and sEPSC frequencies bilaterally, principal cells in uncompensated chickens displayed gross asymmetry in these properties bilaterally.