The Journal of Comparative Neurology
Inhibitory feedforward projection is one of key features of the organization of the central auditory system. In mammals, the inferior colliculus (IC) is the origin of a substantial inhibitory feedforward projection as well as an excitatory projection to the auditory thalamus. This inhibitory feedforward projection is provided by large -aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic (LG) neurons, which are characterized by their receipt of dense excitatory axosomatic terminals positive for vesicular glutamate transporter (VGLUT) 2. In the avian torus semicircularis (TS), which is the homolog of the IC, neither the homology of cell types nor the presence of inhibitory feedforward inhibition have been established. In this study, we tested the presence of LG neurons in pigeon and chicken by neuroanatomical techniques. The TS contained two types of GABAergic neurons of different soma size. Of these, larger GABA+cells were encircled by dense VGLUT2+axosomatic terminals. Ultrastructural analyses revealed that more than 30% of the perimeter of a large GABA+, but not small GABA+or GABA-, soma was covered by presumptive excitatory axosomatic terminals, suggesting that large GABA+cells are the sole recipient of dense excitatory axosomatic synapses. After injection of a retrograde tracer into the auditory thalamus, many retrogradely labeled neurons were found bilaterally in the TS, a few of which were GABA+. Almost all tectothalamic GABA+neurons had large somata, and received dense VGLUT2+axosomatic terminals. These results clearly demonstrated the presence of LG neurons in birds. The similar morphology of LG neurons implies that the function of tectothalamic inhibition is similar among amniotes. J. Comp. Neurol. 524:2604-2622, 2016. 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.