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J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2003 June; 4(2): 139–147.
Published online 2002 November 5. doi:  10.1007/s10162-002-3025-7
PMCID: PMC3202716

Proinflammatory Cytokine Expression in the Endolymphatic Sac During Inner Ear Inflammation


The inner ear is capable of rapidly mounting an immune response that can ultimately lead to cochlear degeneration and permanent hearing loss. The role of the endolymphatic sac in this immune process is not clear. In order to investigate the cytokine expression of cells within the endolymphatic sac, a secondary inner ear immune response to keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) was created in mice. The animals were sacrificed 3–48 h and 7 days following initiation of the immune response. The cochleas and endolymphatic sacs were assayed by immunocytochemistry for IL-1β, TNFα, and IL-6. Three hours after KLH challenge of the scala tympani, the perisaccular tissue of the endolymphatic sac contained more inflammatory cells than the scala tympani or endolymphatic sac lumen. Only a few of these cells, however, expressed the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1β and TNFα between 3 and 12 h after KLH injection. On the other hand, TNFα, which plays an important role in the cochlear secondary immune response, was expressed in cells in the endolymphatic sac lumen. The maximum percentage of cells expressing TNFα was seen later than in the scala tympani. Animals treated with systemic injection of the TNF blocker, etanercept, showed a reduction in the number of cells in the endolymphatic sac lumen. It is concluded that the cells in the endolymphatic sac lumen contribute to the amplification of the adaptive immune response by expressing TNFα, while the infiltration of cells into the perisaccular connective tissue is part of the nonspecific, innate, cochlear immune response.

Keywords: inner ear immunity, cochlear inflammation, innate immunity

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Selected References

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