Shaker codes for a Drosophila voltage-dependent potassium channel. Flies carrying Shaker null or hypomorphic mutations sleep 3–4 h/day instead of 8–14 h/day as their wild-type siblings do. Shaker-like channels are conserved across species but it is unknown whether they affect sleep in mammals. To address this issue, we studied sleep in Kcna2 knockout (KO) mice. Kcna2 codes for Kv1.2, the alpha subunit of a Shaker-like voltage-dependent potassium channel with high expression in the mammalian thalamocortical system.
Continuous (24 h) electroencephalograph (EEG), electromyogram (EMG), and video recordings were used to measure sleep and waking in Kcna2 KO, heterozygous (HZ) and wild-type (WT) pups (P17) and HZ and WT adult mice (P67). Sleep stages were scored visually based on 4-s epochs. EEG power spectra (0–20 Hz) were calculated on consecutive 4-s epochs. KO pups die by P28 due to generalized seizures. At P17 seizures are either absent or very rare in KO pups (< 1% of the 24-h recording time), and abnormal EEG activity is only present during the seizure. KO pups have significantly less non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep (-23%) and significantly more waking (+21%) than HZ and WT siblings with no change in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep time. The decrease in NREM sleep is due to an increase in the number of waking episodes, with no change in number or duration of sleep episodes. Sleep patterns, daily amounts of sleep and waking, and the response to 6 h sleep deprivation are similar in HZ and WT adult mice.
Kv1.2, a mammalian homologue of Shaker, regulates neuronal excitability and affects NREM sleep.
Expression of voltage-gated K+ channel, shaker-related subfamily, member 5 (KCNA5) underlies the human atrial ultra-rapid delayed rectifier K+ current (IKur). The KCNA5 polymorphism resulting in P532L in the C terminus generates IKur that is indistinguishable from wild type at baseline but strikingly resistant to drug block. In the present study, truncating the C terminus of KCNA5 generated a channel with wild-type drug sensitivity, which indicated that P532 is not a drug-binding site. Secondary structure prediction algorithms identified a probable α-helix in P532L that is absent in wild-type channels. We therefore assessed drug sensitivity of IKur generated in vitro in CHO and HEK cells by channels predicted to exhibit or lack this C-terminal α-helix. All constructs displayed near-identical IKur in the absence of drug challenge. However, those predicted to lack the C-terminal α-helix generated quinidine-sensitive currents (43–51% block by 10 μM quinidine), while the currents generated by those constructs predicted to generate a C-terminal α-helix were inhibited less than 12%. Circular dichroism spectroscopy revealed an α-helical signature with peptides derived from drug-resistant channels and no organized structure in those associated with wild-type drug sensitivity. In conclusion, we found that this secondary structure in the KCNA5 C terminus, absent in wild-type channels but generated by a naturally occurring DNA polymorphism, does not alter baseline currents but renders the channel drug resistant. Our data support a model in which this structure impairs access of the drug to a pore-binding site.
The organ of Corti, the auditory organ of the inner ear, contains two types of sensory hair cells and at least seven types of supporting cells. Most of these supporting cell types rely on Notch-dependent expression of Hes/Hey transcription factors to maintain the supporting cell fate. Here we show that Notch signaling is not necessary for the differentiation and maintenance of pillar cell fate, that pillar cells are distinguished by Hey2 expression, and that – unlike other Hes/Hey factors – Hey2 expression is Notch-independent. Hey2 is activated by FGF and blocks hair cell differentiation, while mutation of Hey2 leaves pillar cells sensitive to the loss of Notch signaling and allows them to differentiate as hair cells. We speculate that co-option of FGF signaling to render Hey2 Notch-independent, also liberated pillar cells from the need for direct contact with surrounding hair cells, and enabled evolutionary remodeling of the complex cellular mosaic of the inner ear.
FGF20 signaling in mice is required specifically for the differentiation of cochlear outer hair cells, the cells most often damaged during age-related hearing loss.
A large proportion of age-related hearing loss is caused by loss or damage to outer hair cells in the organ of Corti. The organ of Corti is the mechanosensory transducing apparatus in the inner ear and is composed of inner hair cells, outer hair cells, and highly specialized supporting cells. The mechanisms that regulate differentiation of inner and outer hair cells are not known. Here we report that fibroblast growth factor 20 (FGF20) is required for differentiation of cells in the lateral cochlear compartment (outer hair and supporting cells) within the organ of Corti during a specific developmental time. In the absence of FGF20, mice are deaf and lateral compartment cells remain undifferentiated, postmitotic, and unresponsive to Notch-dependent lateral inhibition. These studies identify developmentally distinct medial (inner hair and supporting cells) and lateral compartments in the developing organ of Corti. The viability and hearing loss in Fgf20 knockout mice suggest that FGF20 may also be a deafness-associated gene in humans.
A large proportion of age-related hearing loss is caused by loss or damage to outer hair cells in the organ of Corti. The organ of Corti is a highly specialized structure in the inner ear that is composed of inner hair cells, outer hair cells, and associated supporting cells. Although we understand some of the mechanisms that regulate hair cell versus supporting cell differentiation, the mechanisms that regulate differentiation of inner versus outer hair cells are not known. One potential candidate is fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling, which is known to regulate the morphogenesis of many sensory organs, including the organ of Corti. In this study, we find that FGF20 signaling is required at a specific time during development to initiate differentiation of cells in the mouse lateral cochlear compartment (which contains outer hair cells and supporting cells, but not inner hair cells). In the absence of FGF20, mice are deaf, and lateral compartment cells remain undifferentiated and unresponsive to mechanisms that regulate the final stages of differentiation. These findings are significant given the importance of outer hair cells during age-related hearing loss. Our studies also suggest that genetic mutations in FGF20 may result in deafness in humans and that FGF20 may be an important factor for the repair or regeneration of sensory cells in the inner ear.
Inner ear hair cells detect environmental signals associated with hearing, balance, and body orientation. In humans and other mammals, significant hair cell loss leads to irreversible hearing and balance deficits, whereas hair cell loss in nonmammalian vertebrates is repaired by the spontaneous generation of replacement hair cells. Research in mammalian hair cell regeneration is hampered by the lack of in vivo damage models for the adult mouse inner ear and the paucity of cell-type-specific markers for non-sensory cells within the sensory receptor epithelia. The present study delineates a protocol to drug damage the adult mouse auditory epithelium (organ of Corti) in situ and uses this protocol to investigate Sox2 and Jagged1 expression in damaged inner ear sensory epithelia. In other tissues, the transcription factor Sox2 and a ligand member of the Notch signaling pathway, Jagged1, are involved in regenerative processes. Both are involved in early inner ear development and are expressed in developing support cells, but little is known about their expressions in the adult. We describe a nonsurgical technique for inducing hair cell damage in adult mouse organ of Corti by a single high-dose injection of the aminoglycoside kanamycin followed by a single injection of the loop diuretic furosemide. This drug combination causes the rapid death of outer hair cells throughout the cochlea. Using immunocytochemical techniques, Sox2 is shown to be expressed specifically in support cells in normal adult mouse inner ear and is not affected by drug damage. Sox2 is absent from auditory hair cells, but is expressed in a subset of vestibular hair cells. Double-labeling experiments with Sox2 and calbindin suggest Sox2-positive hair cells are Type II. Jagged1 is also expressed in support cells in the adult ear and is not affected by drug damage. Sox2 and Jagged1 may be involved in the maintenance of support cells in adult mouse inner ear.
ototoxicity; aminoglycoside; cochlea; vestibular; supporting cell; hair cell
The ion channel genome is still being defined despite numerous publications on the subject. The ion channel transcriptome is even more difficult to assess. Using high-throughput computational tools, we surveyed all available inner ear cDNA libraries to identify genes coding for ion channels. We mapped over 100,000 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) derived from human cochlea, mouse organ of Corti, mouse and zebrafish inner ear, and rat vestibular end organs to Homo sapiens, Mus musculus, Danio rerio, and Rattus norvegicus genomes. A survey of EST data alone reveals that at least a third of the ion channel genome is expressed in the inner ear, with highest expression occurring in hair cell-enriched mouse organ of Corti and rat vestibule. Our data and comparisons with other experimental techniques that measure gene expression show that every method has its limitations and does not per se provide a complete coverage of the inner ear ion channelome. In addition, the data show that most genes produce alternative transcripts with the same spectrum across multiple organisms, no ion channel gene variants are unique to the inner ear, and many splice variants have yet to be annotated. Our high-throughput approach offers a qualitative computational and experimental analysis of ion channel genes in inner ear cDNA collections. A lack of data and incomplete gene annotations prevent both rigorous statistical analyses and comparisons of entire ion channelomes derived from different tissues and organisms.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10162-007-0082-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
hearing; ionic currents; ion channels; genome; EST mapping; expressed sequence tags; splice variants; alternative transcripts
Outer dense fiber 2 (Odf2) was initially identified as a major component of sperm tail cytoskeleton and later was suggested to be a widespread component of centrosomal scaffold that preferentially associates with the appendages of the mother centrioles in somatic cells. Here we report the identification of two Odf2-related centrosomal components, hCenexin1 and hCenexin1 variant 1, that possess a unique C-terminal extension. Our results showed that hCenexin1 is the major isoform expressed in HeLa cells, whereas hOdf2 is not detectably expressed. Mammalian polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1) is critical for proper mitotic progression, and its association with the centrosome is important for microtubule nucleation and function. Interestingly, depletion of hCenexin1 by RNA interference (RNAi) delocalized Plk1 from the centrosomes and the C-terminal extension of hCenexin1 was crucial to recruit Plk1 to the centrosomes through a direct interaction with the polo-box domain of Plk1. Consistent with these findings, the hCenexin1 RNAi cells exhibited weakened γ-tubulin localization and chromosome segregation defects. We propose that hCenexin1 is a critical centrosomal component whose C-terminal extension is required for proper recruitment of Plk1 and other components crucial for normal mitosis. Our results further suggest that the anti-Odf2 immunoreactive centrosomal antigen previously detected in non-germ line cells is likely hCenexin1.
Mice lacking Kv1.1 Shaker-like potassium channels encoded by the Kcna1 gene exhibit severe seizures and die prematurely. The channel is widely expressed in brain but only minimally, if at all, in mouse myocardium. To test whether Kv1.1-potassium deficiency could underlie primary neurogenic cardiac dysfunction, we performed simultaneous video EEG-ECG recordings and found that Kcna1-null mice display potentially malignant interictal cardiac abnormalities including a 5-fold increase in atrioventricular (AV) conduction blocks, as well as bradycardia and premature ventricular contractions. During seizures the occurrence of AV conduction blocks increased, predisposing Kv1.1-deficient mice to sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP), which we recorded fortuitously in one animal. To determine whether the interictal AV conduction blocks were of cardiac or neural origin, we examined their response to selective pharmacological blockade of the autonomic nervous system. Simultaneous administration of atropine and propranolol to block parasympathetic and sympathetic branches, respectively, eliminated conduction blocks. When administered separately, only atropine ameliorated AV conduction blocks, indicating excessive parasympathetic tone contributes to the neurocardiac defect. We found no changes in Kv1.1-deficient cardiac structure, but extensive Kv1.1 expression in juxtaparanodes of the wild-type vagus nerve, the primary source of parasympathetic input to the heart, suggesting a novel site of action leading to Kv1.1-associated cardiac bradyarrhythmias. Taken together, our data suggests that Kv1.1-deficiency leads to impaired neural control of cardiac rhythmicity due in part to aberrant parasympathetic neurotransmission, making Kcna1 a strong candidate gene for human SUDEP.
Mice lacking the Kv1.1 potassium channel α subunit encoded by the Kcna1 gene develop recurrent behavioral seizures early in life. We examined the neuropathological consequences of seizure activity in the Kv1.1−/− (“knock-out”) mouse, and explored the effects of injecting a viral vector carrying the deleted Kcna1 gene into hippocampal neurons.
Morphological techniques were used to assess neuropathological patterns in hippocampus of Kv1.1−/− animals. Immunohistochemical and biochemical techniques were used to monitor ion channel expression in Kv1.1−/− brain. Both wild-type and knockout mice were injected (bilaterally into hippocampus) with an HSV1 amplicon vector that contained the rat Kcna1 subunit gene and/or the E.coli lacZ reporter gene. Vector-injected mice were were examined to determine the extent of neuronal infection.
Video/EEG monitoring confirmed interictal abnormalities and seizure occurrence in Kv1.1−/− mice. Neuropathological assessment suggested that hippocampal damage (silver stain) and reorganization (Timm stain) occurred only after animals had exhibited severe prolonged seizures (status epilepticus). Ablation of Kcna1 did not result in compensatory changes in expression levels of other related ion channel subunits. Vector injection resulted in infection primarily of granule cells in hippocampus, but the number of infected neurons was quite variable across subjects. Kcna1 immunocytochemistry showed “ectopic” Kv1.1 α channel subunit expression.
Kcna1 deletion in mice results in a seizure disorder that resembles – electrographically and neuropathologically – the patterns seen in rodent models of temporal lobe epilepsy. HSV1 vector-mediated gene transfer into hippocampus yielded variable neuronal infection
Epilepsy; Gene therapy; Hippocampal pathology; Knock-out; Potassium channel; Seizures
In mammals, hair cells do not undergo spontaneous regeneration when they are damaged and result in permanent hearing loss. Previous studies in cultured Organ of Corti dissected from neonatal animals have shown that both DAPT (r-secretase inhibitor in the Notch signal pathway) treatment and Atoh1 overexpression can induce supernumerary hair cells. The effects of simultaneous DAPT treatment and Atoh1 over expression in the cells of cultured Organ of Corti from neonatal rats are still obscure.
In this study, we set out to investigate the interaction of DAPT treatment and Atoh1 overexpression as well as culture time and the location of basilar fragment isolated form neonatal rat inner ear. Our results showed that DAPT treatment induced more hair cells in the apical turn, while Atoh1 overexpression induced more extra hair cells in the middle turn of the cultured Organ of Corti. When used together, their effects are additive but not synergistic. In addition, the induction of supernumerary hair cells by both DAPT and Atoh1 overexpression is dependent on the treatment time and the location of the cochlear tissue. Moreover, DAPT treatment causes dramatic changes in the orientation of the stereociliary bundles of hair cells, whereas Atoh1 overexpression didn't induce drastic change of the polarity of stereociliary bundles.
Taken together, these results suggest that DAPT treatment are much more potent in inducing supernumerary hair cells than Atoh1 overexpression and that the new hair cells mainly come from the trans-differentiation of supporting cells around hair cells. The orientation change of stereociliary bundle of hair cells may be attributed to the insertion of the newly formed hair cells. The immature hair bundles on the newly formed hair cells may also contribute to the overall chaos of the stereociliary bundle of the sensory epithelia.
The adult mammalian cochlea lacks regenerative capacity, which is the main reason for the permanence of hearing loss. Vestibular organs, in contrast, replace a small number of lost hair cells. The reason for this difference is unknown. In this work we show isolation of sphere-forming stem cells from the early postnatal organ of Corti, vestibular sensory epithelia, the spiral ganglion, and the stria vascularis. Organ of Corti and vestibular sensory epithelial stem cells give rise to cells that express multiple hair cell markers and express functional ion channels reminiscent of nascent hair cells. Spiral ganglion stem cells display features of neural stem cells and can give rise to neurons and glial cell types. We found that the ability for sphere formation in the mouse cochlea decreases about 100-fold during the second and third postnatal weeks; this decrease is substantially faster than the reduction of stem cells in vestibular organs, which maintain their stem cell population also at older ages. Coincidentally, the relative expression of developmental and progenitor cell markers in the cochlea decreases during the first 3 postnatal weeks, which is in sharp contrast to the vestibular system, where expression of progenitor cell markers remains constant or even increases during this period. Our findings indicate that the lack of regenerative capacity in the adult mammalian cochlea is either a result of an early postnatal loss of stem cells or diminishment of stem cell features of maturing cochlear cells.
cochlea; utricle; hair cell; regeneration; spiral ganglion; neurosphere
TRP genes encode a diverse family of ion channels which have been implicated in many sensory functions. Because several TRP channels have similar properties to the elusive hair cell transduction channel, recent attention has focused on TRP gene expression in the inner ear. At least four TRP genes are known to be expressed in hair cells: TRPC3, TRPV4, TRPA1, and TRPML3. However, there is little evidence supporting any of these as a component of the transduction complex. Other less well-characterized TRP channels are expressed in the inner ear, in particular, within the organ of Corti. Because of their potential role in sensory function, we investigated the developmental expression of RNA that encodes all 33 TRP subunits as well as several splice variants. We designed a quantitative PCR screen using cochlear samples acquired before, during, and after the time when mechanotransduction is acquired in sensory hair cells (embryonic day 17 to postnatal day 8). Cochleas, which included the organ of Corti, stria vascularis, and Reissner’s membrane, were subdivided into four equal quadrants which allowed for regional comparison during development. Expression of RNA transcripts that encoded 33 TRP subunits plus several splice forms and beta-actin were quantified in 28 samples for a total of 1,092 individual measurements, each done in triplicate. We detected RNA that encoded all TRP channels except two: TRPC7 and TRPM8. The largest changes in RNA expression were for TRPA1 (>100-fold), TRPP3 (>50-fold), and TRPC5.2 (>20-fold) which suggested that these subunits may contribute to normal cochlear function. Furthermore, the screen revealed TRPP3 and PKD1L3 RNA expression patterns that were correlated with the acquisition of sensory transduction in outer hair cells (Lelli et al., J Neurophysiol. 101:2961–2973, 2009). Numerous spatiotemporal expression gradients were identified many of which may contribute to the normal functional development of the mouse cochlea.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10162-009-0193-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
mouse; inner ear; organ of corti; TRP channels; development; quantitative PCR
In all mammals, the sensory epithelium for audition is located along the spiraling organ of Corti that resides within the conch shaped cochlea of the inner ear (fig 1). Hair cells in the developing cochlea, which are the mechanosensory cells of the auditory system, are aligned in one row of inner hair cells and three (in the base and mid-turns) to four (in the apical turn) rows of outer hair cells that span the length of the organ of Corti. Hair cells transduce sound-induced mechanical vibrations of the basilar membrane into neural impulses that the brain can interpret. Most cases of sensorineural hearing loss are caused by death or dysfunction of cochlear hair cells.
An increasingly essential tool in auditory research is the isolation and in vitro culture of the organ explant 1,2,9. Once isolated, the explants may be utilized in several ways to provide information regarding normative, anomalous, or therapeutic physiology. Gene expression, stereocilia motility, cell and molecular biology, as well as biological approaches for hair cell regeneration are examples of experimental applications of organ of Corti explants.
This protocol describes a method for the isolation and culture of the organ of Corti from neonatal mice. The accompanying video includes stepwise directions for the isolation of the temporal bone from mouse pups, and subsequent isolation of the cochlea, spiral ligament, and organ of Corti. Once isolated, the sensory epithelium can be plated and cultured in vitro in its entirety, or as a further dissected micro-isolate that lacks the spiral limbus and spiral ganglion neurons. Using this method, primary explants can be maintained for 7-10 days. As an example of the utility of this procedure, organ of Corti explants will be electroporated with an exogenous DsRed reporter gene. This method provides an improvement over other published methods because it provides reproducible, unambiguous, and stepwise directions for the isolation, microdissection, and primary culture of the organ of Corti.
The inner ear is our most sensitive sensory organ and can be subdivided into three functional units: organ of Corti, stria vascularis and spiral ganglion. The appropriate stimulus for the organ of hearing is sound, which travels through the external auditory canal to the middle ear where it is transmitted to the inner ear. The inner ear houses the hair cells, the sensory cells of hearing. The inner hair cells are capable of mechanotransduction, the transformation of mechanical force into an electrical signal, which is the basic principle of hearing. The stria vascularis generates the endocochlear potential and maintains the ionic homeostasis of the endolymph. The dendrites of the spiral ganglion form synaptic contacts with the hair cells. The spiral ganglion is composed of neurons that transmit the electrical signals from the cochlea to the central nervous system. In recent years there has been significant progress in research on the molecular basis of hearing. An increasing number of genes and proteins related to hearing are being identified and characterized. The growing knowledge of these genes contributes not only to greater appreciation of the mechanism of hearing but also to a deeper understanding of the molecular basis of hereditary hearing loss. This basic research is a prerequisite for the development of molecular diagnostics and novel therapies for hearing loss.
inner ear; cochlea; hair cell; organ of Corti; spiral ganglion; deafness
The Notch signaling pathway is known to play important roles in inner ear development. Previous studies have shown that the Notch1 receptor and ligands in the Delta and Jagged families are important for cellular differentiation and patterning of the organ of Corti. Delta/notch-like epidermal growth factor (EGF)-related receptor (DNER) is a novel Notch ligand expressed in developing and adult CNS neurons known to promote maturation of glia through activation of Notch. Here we use in situ hybridization and an antibody against DNER to carry out expression studies of the mouse cochlea and vestibule. We find that DNER is expressed in spiral ganglion neuron cell bodies and peripheral processes during embryonic development of the cochlea and expression in these cells is maintained in adults. DNER becomes strongly expressed in auditory hair cells during postnatal maturation in the mouse cochlea and immunoreactivity for this protein is strong in hair cells and afferent and efferent peripheral nerve endings in the adult organ of Corti. In the vestibular system, we find that DNER is expressed in hair cells and vestibular ganglion neurons during development and in adults. To investigate whether DNER plays a functional role in the inner ear, perhaps similar to its described role in glial maturation, we examined cochleae of DNER−/− mice using immunohistochemical markers of mature glia and supporting cells as well as neurons and hair cells. We found no defects in expression of markers of supporting cells and glia or myelin, and no abnormalities in hair cells or neurons, suggesting that DNER plays a redundant role with other Notch ligands in cochlear development.
cochlea; vestibular; development; maturation; Notch
We characterize the expression pattern of aquaporin-6 in the mouse inner ear by RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry. Our data show that in the inner ear aquaporin-6 is expressed, in both vestibular and acoustic sensory epithelia, by the supporting cells directly contacting hair cells. In particular, in the Organ of Corti, expression was strongest in Deiters' cells, which provide both a mechanical link between outer hair cells (OHCs) and the Organ of Corti, and an entry point for ion recycle pathways. Since aquaporin-6 is permeable to both water and anions, these results suggest its possible involvement in regulating OHC motility, directly through modulation of water and chloride flow or by changing mechanical compliance in Deiters' cells. In further support of this role, treating mice with salicylates, which impair OHC electromotility, dramatically reduced aquaporin-6 expression in the inner ear epithelia but not in control tissues, suggesting a role for this protein in modulating OHCs' responses.
Damage to auditory hair cells in the inner ear as a consequence of aging, disease, acoustic trauma, or exposure to ototoxins underlies most cases of hearing impairment. Because the mammalian ear cannot replace damaged hair cells, loss of hearing is irreversible and progressive throughout life. One of the current goals of inner ear biology is to develop therapeutic strategies to prevent hair cell degeneration. Although important progress has been made in discovering factors that mediate hair cell death, very little is known about the molecular pathway(s) that signal survival. Here we considered the role of NF-κB, a ubiquitous transcription factor that plays a major role in the regulation of many apoptosis- and stress-related genes, in mediating hair cell survival. NF-κB was detected in a constitutively active form in the organ of Corti of 5-day-old rats. Selective inhibition of NF-κB through use of a cell-permeable inhibitory peptide in vitro caused massive degeneration of hair cells within 24 h of inhibitor application. Hair cell death occurred through an apoptotic pathway through activation of caspase-3 and may involve transcriptional down-regulation of the gadd45β gene, an anti-apoptotic NF-κB target. In view of our results, it seems likely that NF-κB may participate in normal hair cell function.
apoptosis; inhibitor of κB; inner ear; organ of Corti; RelA
Cluster of differentiation antigens (CD proteins) are classically used as immune cell markers. However, their expression within the inner ear is still largely undefined. In this study, we explored the possibility that specific CD proteins might be useful for defining inner ear cell populations. mRNA expression profiling of microdissected auditory and vestibular sensory epithelia revealed 107 CD genes as expressed in the early postnatal mouse inner ear. The expression of 68 CD genes was validated with real-time RT-PCR using RNA extracted from microdissected sensory epithelia of cochleae, utricles, saccules, and cristae of newborn mice. Specifically, CD44 was identified as preferentially expressed in the auditory sensory epithelium. Immunohistochemistry revealed that within the early postnatal organ of Corti, the expression of CD44 is restricted to outer pillar cells. In order to confirm and expand this finding, we characterized the expression of CD44 in two different strains of mice with loss- and gain-of-function mutations in Fgfr3 which encodes a receptor for FGF8 that is essential for pillar cell development. We found that the expression of CD44 is abolished from the immature pillar cells in homozygous Fgfr3 knockout mice. In contrast, both the outer pillar cells and the aberrant Deiters’ cells in the Fgfr3P244R/+ mice express CD44. The deafness phenotype segregating in DFNB51 families maps to a linkage interval that includes CD44. To study the potential role of CD44 in hearing, we characterized the auditory system of CD44 knockout mice and sequenced the entire open reading frame of CD44 of affected members of DFNB51 families. Our results suggest that CD44 does not underlie the deafness phenotype of the DFNB51 families. Finally, our study reveals multiple potential new cell type-specific markers in the mouse inner ear and identifies a new marker for outer pillar cells.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10162-010-0211-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
CD44; FGFR3; cochlea; outer pillar cells; deafness
Atonal homolog1 (Atoh1) is a bHLH transcription factor essential for inner ear hair cell differentiation. Targeted expression of Atoh1 at various stages in development can result in hair cell differentiation in the ear. However, the level and duration of Atoh1 expression required for proper hair cell differentiation and maintenance remain unknown. We generated an Atoh1 conditional knockout (CKO) mouse line using Tg(Atoh1-cre), in which the cre expression is driven by an Atoh1 enhancer element that is regulated by Atoh1 protein to “self-terminate” its expression. The mutant mice show transient, limited expression of Atoh1 in all hair cells in the ear. In the organ of Corti, reduction and delayed deletion of Atoh1 result in progressive loss of almost all the inner hair cells and the majority of the outer hair cells within three weeks after birth. The remaining cells express hair cell marker Myo7a and attract nerve fibers, but do not differentiate normal stereocilia bundles. Some Myo7a-positive cells persist in the cochlea into adult stages in the position of outer hair cells, flanked by a single row of pillar cells and two to three rows of disorganized Deiters cells. Gene expression analyses of Atoh1, Barhl1 and Pou4f3, genes required for survival and maturation of hair cells, reveal earlier and higher expression levels in the inner compared to the outer hair cells. Our data show that Atoh1 is crucial for hair cell mechanotransduction development, viability, and maintenance and also suggest that Atoh1 expression level and duration may play a role in inner vs. outer hair cell development. These genetically engineered Atoh1 CKO mice provide a novel model for establishing critical conditions needed to regenerate viable and functional hair cells with Atoh1 therapy.
Purpose of review
A significant proportion of hearing loss and deafness is caused by defects in the structure or function of cells within the organ of Corti. Identification of the molecular factors that regulate the development of this structure should provide valuable insights regarding inner ear formation and the signaling pathways that underlie congenital auditory deficits. In addition, targeted modulation of these same factors could be developed as therapies for hair cell regeneration.
Results from experiments using transgenic and mutant mice, as well as in vitro techniques, have identified genes and signaling pathways that are required to either specify unique auditory cell types, such as hair cells or supporting cells, or to generate the highly ordered cellular pattern that is characteristic for the organ of Corti. In particular, the hedgehog and fibroblast growth factor signaling pathways modulate the formation of the progenitor cells that will give rise to the organ of Corti. Sox2, a transcription factor that is required for the formation of the cochlear progenitor cell population, has paradoxically been shown to also act as an inhibitor of hair cell development. Finally, the motor protein Myosin II regulates extension of the organ of Corti and the alignment of hair cells and supporting cells into ordered rows.
A better understanding of the signaling pathways that direct different aspects of cochlear development, such as specific of cell fates or cellular patterning, offers the potential to identify new pathways or molecules that could be targeted for therapeutic interventions.
hair cell; pillar cell; atoh1; organ of Corti; Sox2
During the development of the inner ear, the Notch cell signaling pathway is responsible for the specification of the pro-sensory domain and influences cell fate decisions. It is assumed that Notch signaling ends during maturity and cannot be reinitiated to alter the fate of new or existing cells in the organ of Corti. This is in contrast to non-mammalian species which reinitiate Delta1-Notch1 signaling in response to trauma in the auditory epithelium, resulting in hair cell regeneration through transdifferentiation and/or mitosis. We report immunohistochemical data and Western protein analysis showing that in the aminoglycoside-damaged guinea pig organ of Corti, there is an increase in proteins involved in Notch activation occurring within 24 hours of a chemical hair cell lesion. The signaling response is characterized by the increased presence of Jagged1 ligand in pillar and Deiters cells, Notch1 signal in surviving supporting cell nuclei, and the absence of Jagged2 and Delta-like1. The pro-sensory bHLH protein Atoh1 was absent at all time points following an ototoxic lesion, while the repressor bHLH transcription factors Hes1 and Hes5 were detected in surviving supporting cell nuclei in the former inner and outer hair cell areas, respectively. Notch pathway proteins peaked at 2 weeks, decreased at 1 month, and nearly disappeared by 2 months. These results indicate that the mammalian auditory epithelium retains the ability to regulate Notch signaling and Notch-dependent Hes activity in response to cellular trauma and that the signaling is transient. Additionally, since Hes activity antagonizes the transcription of prosensory Atoh1, the presence of Hes after a lesion may prohibit the occurrence of transdifferentiation in the surviving supporting cells.
Hearing loss can be caused by primary degeneration of spiral ganglion neurons or by secondary degeneration of these neurons after hair cell loss. The replacement of auditory neurons would be an important step in any attempt to restore auditory function in patients with damaged inner ear neurons or hair cells. Application of β-bungarotoxin, a toxin derived from snake venom, to an explant of the cochlea eradicates spiral ganglion neurons while sparing the other cochlear cell types. The toxin was found to bind to the neurons and to cause apoptotic cell death without affecting hair cells or other inner ear cell types as indicated by TUNEL staining, and, thus, the toxin provides a highly specific means of deafferentation of hair cells. We therefore used the denervated organ of Corti for the study of neuronal regeneration and synaptogenesis with hair cells and found that spiral ganglion neurons obtained from the cochlea of an untreated newborn mouse reinnervated hair cells in the toxin-treated organ of Corti and expressed synaptic vesicle markers at points of contact with hair cells. These findings suggest that it may be possible to replace degenerated neurons by grafting new cells into the organ of Corti.
beta-bungarotoxin; apoptosis; spiral ganglion; transplantation
Episodic ataxia type 1 (EA1) is a monogenic channelopathy caused by mutations of the potassium channel gene KCNA1. Affected individuals carrying the same mutation can exhibit considerable variability in the severity of ataxia, neuromyotonia, and other associated features. We investigated the phenotypic heterogeneity of EA1 in 2 sets of identical twins to determine the contribution of environmental factors to disease severity. One of the mutations was also found in a distantly related family, providing evidence of the influence of genetic background on the EA1 phenotype.
We evaluated 3 families with an EA1 phenotype, 2 of which included monozygotic twins. We sequenced the KCNA1 gene and studied the biophysical consequences of the mutations in HEK cells.
We identified a new KCNA1 mutation in each pair of twins. Both pairs reported striking differences in the clinical severity of symptoms. The F414S mutation identified in one set of twins also occurred in a distantly related family in which seizures complicated the EA1 phenotype. The other twins had an R307C mutation, the first EA1 mutation to affect an arginine residue in the voltage-sensor domain. Both mutants when expressed exerted a dominant-negative effect on wild-type channels.
These results broaden the range of KCNA1 mutations and reveal an unexpectedly large contribution of nongenetic factors to phenotypic variability in EA1. The occurrence of epilepsy in 1 of 2 families with the F414S mutation suggests an interplay of KCNA1 with other genetic factors.
= episodic ataxia type 1.
Odf2 (outer dense fiber 2) is the major protein of the cytoskeleton of the sperm tail. In somatic cells, it is a component of the centrosome in which it is located in the appendages of the mother centriole. Additionally, as shown previously by forced expression in cultured cells, Odf2 localizes to centrioles, basal bodies, and primary cilia, which are all structurally and functionally interconnected. The importance of Odf2 has become obvious by the absence of primary cilia in Odf2-deficient cells and by the embryonic lethality of the Odf2 gene trap insertional mouse. However, nothing is known about the endogenous localization of Odf2 in the tissues of adult mice. We show here that Odf2 protein localizes to centrosomes, to photoreceptor primary cilia, and to basal bodies of ciliated cells of the respiratory epithelium and of the kidney. Our results thus suggest that Odf2 contributes to assorted ciliopathies.
Odf2; Adult tissues; Photoreceptor cilium; Basal bodies; Mouse (C57BL/6; CD1)
The organ of Corti is the sensory epithelium in the cochlea of the inner ear. It is modeled as a shell-of-revolution structure with continuous and discrete components. Our recent work has been on the inclusion of the viscous fluid. Measurements from various laboratories provide the opportunity to refocus on the elastic properties. The current detailed model for the organ of Corti is reasonably consistent with diverse measurements. Most components have little stiffness in the propagation direction. However, the isotropic stiffness of the pillar heads is found to offer an explanation for the difference in point load and pressure measurements. The individual rows of inner hair cell stereocilia with tip links and the Hensen stripe are included, since these details are important for the determination of the neural excitation. The results for low frequency show a phase of tip link tension similar to auditory nerve measurements. The nonlinearity of fluid in the small gaps is considered. A result is that as amplitude increases, because of the near contact with the Hensen stripe, the excitation changes polarity, similar to the peak-splitting neural behavior sometimes observed.
model; cochlea; Corti; pillars; tip link; point load