Perineuronal nets (PNNs) are specialized extracellular matrix molecules that are associated with the closing of the critical period, among other functions. In the adult brain, PNNs surround specific types of neurons, however the expression of PNNs in the auditory system of the mouse, particularly at the level of the midbrain and forebrain, has not been fully described. In addition, the association of PNNs with excitatory and inhibitory cell types in these structures remains unknown. Therefore, we sought to investigate the expression of PNNs in the inferior colliculus (IC), thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) and primary auditory cortex (A1) of the mouse brain by labeling with wisteria floribunda agglutinin (WFA). To aid in the identification of inhibitory neurons in these structures, we employed the vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT)-Venus transgenic mouse strain, which robustly expresses an enhanced yellow-fluorescent protein (Venus) natively in nearly all gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA)-ergic inhibitory neurons, thus enabling a rapid and unambiguous assessment of inhibitory neurons throughout the nervous system. Our results demonstrate that PNNs are expressed throughout the auditory midbrain and forebrain, but vary in their local distribution. PNNs are most dense in the TRN and least dense in A1. Furthermore, PNNs are preferentially associated with inhibitory neurons in A1 and the TRN, but not in the IC of the mouse. These data suggest regionally specific roles for PNNs in auditory information processing.
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