The calyx of Held is probably the largest synaptic terminal in the brain, forming a unique one-to-one connection in the auditory ventral brainstem. During early development, calyces have many collaterals, whose function is unknown. Using electrophysiological recordings and fast-calcium imaging in brain slices, we demonstrate that these collaterals are involved in synaptic transmission. We show evidence that the collaterals are pruned and that the pruning already begins 1 week before the onset of hearing. Using two-photon microscopy to image the calyx of Held in neonate rats, we report evidence that both axons and nascent calyces are structurally dynamic, showing the formation, elimination, extension, or retraction of up to 65% of their collaterals within 1 hour. The observed dynamic behavior of axons may add flexibility in the choice of postsynaptic partners and thereby contribute to ensuring that each principal cell eventually is contacted by a single calyx of Held.

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Keywords Auditory system, Axon collateral, Medial nucleus of the trapezoid body, Structural plasticity, Two-photon imaging
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Rodríguez-Contreras, A., van Hoeve, J.S.S., Habets, R.L.P., Locher, H., & Borst, J.G.G.. (2008). Dynamic development of the calyx of Held synapse. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(14), 5603–5608. doi:10.1073/pnas.0801395105