The transition from sucking to chewing during postnatal development is accompanied by changes in masticatory muscle activity patterns. We previously demonstrated that changes in numerous parameters of chemical synapses among neurons, and intrinsic membrane properties of neurons, comprising brainstem oral-motor circuits are coincident with changes in masticatory muscle activity patterns. Considering recent findings that implicate a role for gap junctions in early locomotor and respiratory behaviors, our present study focuses on the developmental regulation of connexin proteins in trigeminal neurons as a first step in understanding a role for gap junctions in developing oral-motor circuits used for ingestive behaviors. We conducted immunohistochemistry studies to examine connexin (Cx) 26, 32, 36, and 43 expression in trigeminal motor and mesencephalic trigeminal nuclei during postnatal development at the light and electron microscopic levels. Postnatal days (P) 1, 6, 14, 21, and adult mice were used. Cx32, 36, and 43 expression was developmentally regulated in the trigeminal motor nucleus, while Cx26 expression remained high throughout postnatal development. In the mesencephalic trigeminal nucleus, Cx26, 32, and 43 expression was intense throughout development, with only Cx36 showing a developmental regulation. Ultrastructural examination of neonatal trigeminal motoneurons and mesencephalic trigeminal neurons revealed connexin expression in cell membranes, cytoplasm, and cell nuclei (Cx43, Cx32). Our results show that connexin proteins are differentially regulated between trigeminal motoneurons and mesencephalic trigeminal neurons during development, and suggest a possible role for gap junctions in the development of trigeminal neurons and the function and maturation of oral-motor circuits.
- Gap junction
- Primary sensory neuron
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience