BACKGROUND: In sensory systems with broad bandwidths, polarized receptor cells utilize highly specialized organelles in their apical and basolateral compartments to transduce and ultimately transmit signals to the rest of the nervous system. While progress has been made in elucidating the assembly of the transduction apparatus, the development of synaptic ribbon-containing terminals remains poorly understood. To begin to delineate the targeting of the exocytotic machinery specifically in ribbon-containing neurons, we have examined the expression of complexins 3 and 4 in the zebrafish visual and acousticolateral systems during the first week of development.
RESULTS: We have identified five members of the complexin 3/4 subfamily in zebrafish that show 50-75% amino acid identity with mammalian complexins 3 and 4. Utilizing a polyclonal antibody that recognizes all five orthologs, we demonstrate that these proteins are enriched in ribbon-containing sensory neurons. Complexin 3/4 is rapidly targeted to presynaptic terminals in the pineal organ and retina concomitantly with RIBEYE b, a component of ribbons. In hair cells of the inner ear and lateral line, however, complexin 3/4 immunoreactivity clusters on the apical surfaces of hair cells, among their stereocilia, rather than along the basolateral plasma membrane with RIBEYE b. While a complexin 4a-specific antibody and riboprobe selectively label visual system ribbon-containing neurons, neuromasts and the inner ear contain complexin 4b.
CONCLUSION: These results provide evidence for the concurrent transport and/or assembly of multiple components of the active zone in developing ribbon terminals. Members of the complexin 3/4 subfamily are enriched in these terminals in the visual system and in hair bundles of the acousticolateral system, suggesting that these proteins are differentially targeted and may have multiple roles in ribbon-containing sensory neurons.