The expression of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subtype, alpha7, was investigated in the developing teeth of mice that were modified through homologous recombination to express a bi-cistronic IRES-driven tau-enhanced green fluorescent protein (GFP); alpha7GFP) or IRES-Cre (alpha7Cre). The expression of alpha7GFP was detected first in cells of the condensing mesenchyme at embryonic (E) day E13.5 where it intensifies through E14.5. This expression ends abruptly at E15.5, but was again observed in ameloblasts of incisors at E16.5 or molar ameloblasts by E17.5–E18.5. This expression remains detectable until molar enamel deposition is completed or throughout life as in the constantly erupting mouse incisors. The expression of alpha7GFP also identifies all stages of innervation of the tooth organ. Ablation of the alpha7-cell lineage using a conditional alpha7Cre×ROSA26-LoxP(diphtheria toxin A) strategy substantially reduced the mesenchyme and this corresponded with excessive epithelium overgrowth consistent with an instructive role by these cells during ectoderm patterning. However, alpha7knock-out (KO) mice exhibited normal tooth size and shape indicating that under normal conditions alpha7 expression is dispensable to this process. The function of ameloblasts in alpha7KO mice is altered relative to controls. High resolution micro-computed tomography analysis of adult mandibular incisors revealed enamel volume of the alpha7KO was significantly reduced and the organization of enamel rods was altered relative to controls. These results demonstrate distinct and varied spatiotemporal expression of alpha7 during tooth development, and they suggest that dysfunction of this receptor would have diverse impacts upon the adult organ.
Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling plays important roles in the formation of the auditory epithelium. However, little is known about the detailed expression pattern of Shh and the cell sources from which Shh is secreted. By analyzing ShhCreEGFP/+ mice, we found that Shh was first expressed in all cochlear spiral ganglion neurons by embryonic day 13.5, after which its expression gradually decreased from base to apex. By postnatal day 0, it was not detected in any spiral ganglion neurons. Genetic cell fate mapping results also confirmed that Shh was exclusively expressed in all spiral ganglion neurons and not in surrounding glia cells. The basal-to-apical wave of Shh declining strongly resembles that of hair cell differentiation, supporting the idea that Shh signaling inhibits hair cell differentiation. Furthermore, this ShhCreEGFP/+ mouse is a useful Cre line in which to delete floxed genes specifically in spiral ganglion neurons of the developing cochlea.
Sonic Hedgehog (Shh); cochlear duct; hair cell; spiral ganglion neuron; differentiation
Vagal afferents regulate energy balance by providing a link between the brain and postprandial signals originating from the gut. In the current study, we investigated melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) expression in the nodose ganglion, where the cell bodies of vagal sensory afferents reside. Using a line of mice expressing Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) under the control of the MC4R promoter, we found GFP expression in approximately one third of nodose ganglion neurons. Using immunohistochemistry combined with in situ hybridization, we also demonstrated that ∼20% of GFP-positive neurons coexpressed cholecystokinin receptor A. In addition, we found that the GFP is transported to peripheral tissues by both vagal sensory afferents and motor efferents, which allowed us to assess the sites innervated by MC4R-GFP neurons. GFP-positive efferents that co-expressed choline acetyltransferase specifically terminated in the hepatic artery and the myenteric plexus of the stomach and duodenum. In contrast, GFP-positive afferents that did not express cholinergic or sympathetic markers terminated in the submucosal plexus and mucosa of the duodenum. Retrograde tracing experiments confirmed the innervation of the duodenum by GFP-positive neurons located in the nodose ganglion. Our findings support the hypothesis that MC4R signaling in vagal afferents may modulate the activity of fibers sensitive to satiety signals such as cholecystokinin, and that MC4R signaling in vagal efferents may contribute to the control of the liver and gastrointestinal tract.
cholecystokinin; Green fluorescent protein; satiety; vagus nerve
Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is a major health concern for the elderly. Loss of spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs), the primary sensory relay of the auditory system, is associated consistently with presbycusis. The causative molecular events responsible for age-related loss of SGNs are unknown. Recent reports directly link age-related neuronal loss in cerebral cortex with the loss of high-affinity nicotine acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). In cochlea, cholinergic synapses are made by olivocochlear efferent fibers on the outer hair cells that express α9 nAChR subunits and on the peripheral projections of SGNs that express α2, α4 –7, and β2–3 nAChR subunits. A significantly decreased expression of the β2 nAChR subunit in SGNs was found specifically in mice susceptible to presbycusis. Furthermore, mice lacking the β2 nAChR subunit (β2−/−), but not mice lacking the α5 nAChR subunit (α5−/−), have dramatic hearing loss and significant reduction in the number of SGNs. Our findings clearly established a requirement for β2 nAChR subunit in the maintenance of SGNs during aging.
presbycusis; aging; hearing loss; nicotinic receptors; spiral ganglion neurons; neurodegeneration
Acetylcholine is the major neurotransmitter of the olivocochlear efferent system, which provides feedback to cochlear hair cells and sensory neurons. To study the role of cochlear muscarinic receptors, we studied receptor localization with immunohistochemistry and reverse transcription-PCR and measured olivocochlear function, cochlear responses, and histopathology in mice with targeted deletion of each of the five receptor subtypes. M2, M4, and M5 were detected in microdissected immature (postnatal days 10–13) inner hair cells and spiral ganglion cells but not outer hair cells. In the adult (6 weeks), the same transcripts were found in microdissected organ of Corti and spiral ganglion samples. M2 protein was found, by immunohistochemistry, in olivocochlear fibers in both outer and inner hair cell areas. M3 mRNA was amplified only from whole cochleas, and M1 message was never seen in wild-type ears. Auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) and distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) were unaffected by loss of Gq-coupled receptors (M1, M3, or M5), as were shock-evoked olivocochlear effects and vulnerability to acoustic injury. In contrast, loss of Gi-coupled receptors (M2 and/or M4) decreased neural responses without affecting DPOAEs (at low frequencies). This phenotype and the expression pattern are consistent with excitatory muscarinic signaling in cochlear sensory neurons. At high frequencies, both ABRs and DPOAEs were attenuated by loss of M2 and/or M4, and the vulnerability to acoustic injury was dramatically decreased. This aspect of the phenotype and the expression pattern are consistent with a presynaptic role for muscarinic autoreceptors in decreasing ACh release from olivocochlear terminals during high-level acoustic stimulation and suggest that muscarinic antagonists could enhance the resistance of the inner ear to noise-induced hearing loss.
The quantitative analysis of fluorescence in frozen sections of rat inner ears exposed to Texas Red conjugated gentamicin revealed distinct gradients of gentamicin fluorescence. At 500 µg/ml gentamicin fluorescence occurred in inner and outer hair cells, the interdental cell region, the spiral limbus below the interdental cells, the nerve fiber bundle in the spiral lamina, the inner sulcus cells and the dorsal region of the spiral ligament. No gentamicin fluorescence was observed in the Hensen / Claudius cells, the ventral region of the spiral ligament, the stria vascularis and the spiral ganglion. In the vestibule only the hair cell epithelium and the transitional cells of the saccule showed gentamicin fluorescence while no gentamicin fluorescence was found in hair cell epithelia and transitional cells of utricle and ampule, nerve fibers below hair cell epithelia of saccule, utricle and ampule and in dark cells. The gentamicin flurescence increased at higher concentrations. Gentamicin exposure led to more pronounced gentamicin fluorescence in the cochlea compared to the vestibule. Based on the predominant gentamicin fluorescence in the hair cell - limbus region of the cochlea at a low dose we propose that gentamicin may interact with the K+-flow from the inner hair cells back to the scala media.
Gentamicin; Menière's disease; cochlea; vestibule; rat
Pharmacological studies suggest that dopamine release from lateral olivocochlear efferent neurons suppresses spontaneous and sound-evoked activity in cochlear nerve fibers and helps control noise-induced excitotoxicity; however, the literature on cochlear expression and localization of dopamine receptors is contradictory. To better characterize cochlear dopaminergic signaling, we studied receptor localization using immunohistochemistry or RT-PCR and assessed histopathology, cochlear responses and olivocochlear function in mice with targeted deletion of each of the five receptor subtypes. In normal ears, D1, D2 and D5 receptors were detected in microdissected immature (P10–P13) spiral ganglion cells and outer hair cells but not inner hair cells. D4 was detected in spiral ganglion cells only. In whole cochlea samples from adults, transcripts for D1, D2, D4 and D5 were present, whereas D3 mRNA was never detected. D1 and D2 immunolabeling was localized to cochlear nerve fibers, near the first nodes of Ranvier (D2) and in the inner spiral bundle region (D1 and D2) where presynaptic olivocochlear terminals are found. No other receptor labeling was consistent. Cochlear function was normal in D3, D4 and D5 knockouts. D1 and D2 knockouts showed slight, but significant enhancement and suppression, respectively, of cochlear responses, both in the neural output (ABR wave 1) and in outer-hair cell function (DPOAEs). Vulnerability to acoustic injury was significantly increased in D2, D4 and D5 lines: D1 could not be tested, and no differences were seen in D3 mutants, consistent with a lack of receptor expression. The increased vulnerability in D2 knockouts was seen in DPOAEs, suggesting a role for dopamine in the OHC area. In D4 and D5 knockouts, the increased noise vulnerability was seen only in ABRs, consistent with a role for dopaminergic signaling in minimizing neural damage.
dopamine; cochlea; hair cell; olivocochlear; acoustic injury
Despite pharmacological and immunohistochemical evidence for GABA as a neurotransmitter in the olivocochlear efferent bundle, a clear functional role of GABA in the inner ear has not emerged. To explore the role of metabotropic GABAB receptors, we characterized the cochlear phenotype of mice with targeted deletion of the GABAB1 subunit and determined its tissue localization using a mouse line expressing a GFP-tagged GABAB1 subunit under the endogenous promoter. Immunostaining revealed GABAB1 expression in both type I and type II ganglion cells and in their synaptic terminals under inner and outer hair cells, respectively. No GABAB1 expression was observed in hair cells. Mean cochlear thresholds, measured via both auditory brainstem responses and distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs), were elevated by ∼10 dB in GABAB1-deficient mice, consistent with outer hair cell dysfunction. Olivocochlear efferent function, assessed via DPOAE suppression during efferent electrical stimulation, was unaffected by GABAB1 deletion. GABAB1-deficient mice showed increased resistance to permanent acoustic injury, with mean threshold shifts ∼25 dB smaller than wild-types after exposure to 8–16-kHz noise at 100 dB for 2 h. In contrast, there was no vulnerability difference to temporary acoustic injury following exposure to the same noise at 94 dB for 15 min. Our results suggest that GABAergic signaling in type II afferent neurons may be required for normal outer hair cell amplifier function at low sound levels and may also modulate outer hair cell responses to high-level sound.
inner ear; feedback; efferent
Atoh1 is a basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor necessary for the specification of inner ear hair cells and central auditory system neurons derived from the rhombic lip. We used the Cre-loxP system and two Cre-driver lines (Egr2Cre and Hoxb1Cre) to delete Atoh1 from different regions of the cochlear nucleus (CN) and accessory auditory nuclei (AAN). Adult Atoh1-conditional knockout mice (Atoh1CKO) are behaviorally deaf, have diminished auditory brainstem evoked responses and disrupted CN and AAN morphology and connectivity. In addition, Egr2; Atoh1CKO mice lose spiral ganglion neurons in the cochlea and AAN neurons during the first 3 days of life, revealing a novel critical period in the development of these neurons. These new mouse models of predominantly central deafness illuminate the importance of the CN for support of a subset of peripheral and central auditory neurons.
Cochlear hair cells express SK2, a small-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel thought to act in concert with Ca2+-permeable nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) α9 and α10 in mediating suppressive effects of the olivocochlear efferent innervation. To probe the in vivo role of SK2 channels in hearing, we examined gene expression, cochlear function, efferent suppression and noise vulnerability in mice overexpressing SK2 channels. Cochlear thresholds, as measured by auditory brainstem responses and otoacoustic emissions were normal in overexpressers, as was overall cochlear morphology and the size, number and distribution of efferent terminals on outer hair cells. Cochlear expression levels of SK2 channels were elevated 8-fold, without striking changes in other SK channels or in the α9/α10 nAChRs. Shock-evoked efferent suppression of cochlear responses was significantly enhanced in overexpresser mice, as seen previously in α9 overexpresser mice (Maison et al. 2002); however, in contrast to α9 overexpressers, SK2 overexpressers were not protected from acoustic injury. Results suggest that efferent-mediated cochlear protection is mediated by other downstream effects of ACh-mediated Ca2+ entry, different from those involving SK2-mediated hyperpolarization and the associated reduction in outer hair cell electromotility.
Hair cell; Olivocochlear
Membrane-bound ectonucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolases (E-NTPDases) in the inner ear regulate complex extracellular purinergic type-2 (P2) receptor signalling pathways through hydrolysis of extracellular nucleoside 5′-triphosphates and diphosphates. This study investigated the distribution of NTPDase5 and NTPDase6, two intracellular members of the E-NTPDase family, and linked this to regulation of P2 receptor signalling in the adult rat cochlea. These extracellular ectonucleotidases preferentially hydrolyse nucleoside 5′-diphosphates such as UDP and GDP. Expression of both enzymes at mRNA and protein level was detected in cochlear tissues and there was in vivo release of soluble NTPDase5 and 6 into cochlear fluids. Strong NTPDase5 immunostaining was found in the spiral ganglion neurones and supporting Deiters’ cells of the organ of Corti, while NTPDase6 was confined to the inner hair cells. Upregulation of NTPDase5 after exposure to loud sound indicates a dynamic role for NTPDase5 in cochlear response to stress, whereas NTPDase6 may have more limited extracellular roles. Noise-induced upregulation of co-localised UDP-preferring P2Y6 receptors in the spiral ganglion neurons further supports the involvement of NTPDase5 in regulation of P2Y receptor signalling. Noise stress also induced P2Y14 (UDP- and UDP-glucose preferring) receptor expression in the root processes of the outer sulcus cells, but this was not associated with localization of the E-NTPDases.
Cochlea; P2Y receptors; NTPDase5; NTPDase6; Soluble ectonucleotidases; Purinergic signalling
Connexin26 (Cx26) and Cx30 are predominant isoforms of gap junction channels in the cochlea and play a critical role in hearing. In this study, the cellular distributions of Cx26 and Cx30 in the cochlear sensory epithelium of guinea pigs were examined by immunofluorescent staining and confocal microscopy in whole mounts of the cochlear sensory epithelium and dissociated cell preparations. The expression of Cx26 and Cx30 demonstrated a longitudinal gradient distribution in the epithelium and was reduced threefold from the cochlear apex to base. The reduction was more pronounced in the Deiters cells and pillar cells than in the Hensen cells. Cx26 was expressed in all types of supporting cells, but little Cx30 labeling was seen in the Hensen cells. Cx26 expression in the Hensen cells was concentrated mainly in the second and third rows, forming a distinct band along the sensory epithelium at its outer region. In the dissociated Deiters cells and pillar cells, Cx30 showed dense labeling at the cell bodies and processes in the reticular lamina. Cx26 labeling largely overlapped that of Cx30 in these regions. Cx26 and Cx30 were also coexpressed in the gap junctional plaques between Claudius cells. Neither Cx26 nor Cx30 labeling was seen in the hair cells and spiral ganglion neurons. These observations demonstrate that Cx26 and Cx30 have a longitudinal gradient distribution and distinct cellular expression in the auditory sensory epithelium. This further supports our previous reports that Cx26 and Cx30 can solely and concertedly perform different functions in the cochlea.
gap junction; cochlear supporting cells; reticular lamina; spiral ganglion; inner ear; nonsyndromic hearing loss
The function of the orphan glutamate receptor delta subunits (GluRδ1 and GluRδ2) remains unclear. GluRδ2 is expressed exclusively in the Purkinje cells of the cerebellum, and GluRδ1 is prominently expressed in inner ear hair cells and neurons of the hippocampus. We found that mice lacking the GluRδ1 protein displayed significant cochlear threshold shifts for frequencies of >16 kHz. These deficits correlated with a substantial loss of type IV spiral ligament fibrocytes and a significant reduction of endolymphatic potential in high-frequency cochlear regions. Vulnerability to acoustic injury was significantly enhanced; however, the efferent innervation of hair cells and the classic efferent inhibition of outer hair cells were unaffected. Hippocampal and vestibular morphology and function were normal. Our findings show that the orphan GluRδ1 plays an essential role in high-frequency hearing and ionic homeostasis in the basal cochlea, and the locus encoding GluRδ1 represents a candidate gene for congenital or acquired high-frequency hearing loss in humans.
We have used fibroblast clones expressing muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha and gamma, and alpha and delta subunits to measure the kinetics of subunit assembly, and to study the properties of the partially assembled products that are formed. We demonstrate by coimmunoprecipitation that assembly intermediates in fibroblasts coexpressing alpha and delta subunits are formed in a time-dependent manner. The alpha and gamma- and the alpha and delta-producing transfected cells form complexes that, when labeled with 125I-alpha- bungarotoxin, migrate in sucrose gradients at 6.3S, a value consistent with a hetero-dimer structure. An additional peak at 8.5S is formed from the alpha and gamma subunits expressed in fibroblasts suggesting that gamma may have more than one binding site for alpha subunit. The stability and specificity of formation of these partially assembled complexes suggests that they are normal intermediates in the assembly of acetylcholine receptor. Comparison of the binding of 125I-alpha- bungarotoxin to intact and detergent-extracted fibroblasts indicate that essentially all of the binding sites are retained in an intracellular pool. The fibroblast delta subunit has the electrophoretic mobility in SDS-PAGE of a precursor that does not contain complex carbohydrates. In addition, alpha gamma and alpha delta complexes had lectin binding properties expected of subunits lacking complex oligosaccharides. Therefore, fibroblasts coexpressing alpha and gamma or alpha and delta subunits produce discrete assembly intermediates that are retained in an intracellular compartment and are not processed by Golgi enzymes.
Enhanced spiral ganglion neuron (SGN) survival and regeneration of peripheral axons following deafness will likely enhance the efficacy of cochlear implants. Overexpression of Bcl-2 prevents SGN death, but inhibits neurite growth. Here we assessed the consequences of Bcl-2 targeted to either the mitochondria (GFP-Bcl-2-Maob) or endoplasmic reticulum (ER, GFP-Bcl-2-Cb5) on cultured SGN survival and neurite growth. Transfection of wild type GFP-Bcl-2, GFP-Bcl-2-Cb5, or GFP-Bcl-2-Maob increased SGN survival, with GFP-Bcl-2-Cb5 providing the most robust response. Paradoxically, expression of GFP-Bcl-2-Maob results in SGN death in the presence of neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophins that independently promote SGN survival via Trk receptors. This loss of SGNs is associated with cleavage of caspase 3 and appears specific for neurotrophin signaling, since co-expression of constitutively active mitogen activated kinase kinase (MEKΔEE) or phosphatidyl inositol-3 kinase (P110), but not other prosurvival stimuli (e.g. membrane depolarization), also results in the loss of SGNs expressing GFP-Bcl-2-Maob. MEKΔEE and P110 promote SGN survival while P110 promotes neurite growth to a greater extent than NT-3 or MEKΔEE. However wild-type GFP-Bcl-2, GFP-Bcl-2-Cb5 and GFP-Bcl-2-Maob inhibit neurite growth even in the presence of neurotrophins, MEKΔEE, or P110. Historically, Bcl-2 has been thought to act primarily at the mitochondria to prevent neuronal apoptosis. Nevertheless, our data show that Bcl-2 targeted to the ER is more effective at rescuing SGNs in the absence of trophic factors. Additionally, Bcl-2 targeted to the mitochondria results in SGN death in the presence of neurotrophins.
auditory neuron; axon growth; phosphatidyl inositol-3 kinase; mitogen activated protein kinase kinase; nerve regeneration
Age-related decline of cochlear function is mainly due to the loss of hair cells and spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs). Recent findings clearly indicate that survival of these two cell types during aging depends on genetic and environmental interactions, and this relationship is seen at the systemic, tissue, cellular, and molecular levels. At cellular and molecular levels, age-related loss of hair cells and SGNs can occur independently, suggesting distinct mechanisms for the death of each during aging. This mechanistic independence is also observed in the loss of medial olivocochlear efferent innervation and outer hair cells during aging, pointing to a universal independent cellular mechanism for age-related neuronal death in the peripheral auditory system. While several molecular signaling pathways are implicated in the age-related loss of hair cells and SGNs, studies with the ability to locally modify gene expression in these cell types are needed to address whether these signaling pathways have direct effects on hair cells and SGNs during aging. Finally, the issue of whether age-related loss of these cells occurs via typical apoptotic pathways requires further examination. As new studies in the field of aging reshape the framework for exploring these underpinnings, understanding of the loss of hair cells and SGNs associated with age and the interventions that can treat and prevent these changes will result in dramatic benefits for an aging population.
Aging; Hearing loss; Spiral ganglion neurons; Hair cells; Cochlea
Synaptophysin and synaptobrevin 2 associate closely with packaging and storage of synaptic vesicles and transmitter release, and both play important roles in the development of rat cochlea. We examined the differential expression of synaptophysin and synaptobrevin 2 in the developing Sprague-Dawley rat cochlea, and investigated the relationship between their expression and auditory development. The expression of synaptophysin and synaptobrevin 2 was not observed in Kolliker's and Corti's organ at postnatal 1 day (P1) and P5, and the top turn of the cochlea at P10. Expression was detected in the outer spiral bundle (OSB), the inner spiral bundle (ISB), and the medial wall of the Deiters' cell of the cochlea at P14, and P28, and in the middle or the basal turn of Corti's organ at P10. Synaptobrevin 2 was expressed in the top of the inner hair cells (IHCs) in Corti's organ of both P14 and P28 rats. All spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) were stained at all ages examined. The localization of synaptophysin and synaptobrevin 2 in the cochlea was closely associated with the distribution of nerve fibers and neural activity (the docking and release of synaptic vesicles). Synaptophysin and synaptobrevin 2 were expressed in a dynamic manner during the development of rat cochlea. Their expression differences during the development were in favor of the configuration course constructed between nerve endings and target cells. It also played a key role in the formation of the correct coding of auditory information during auditory system development.
neurotransmission; synaptophysin; synaptobrevin 2; cochlear development; synapse
In the mammalian auditory system, the synapse between efferent olivocochlear (OC) neurons and sensory cochlear hair cells is cholinergic, fast and inhibitory. This efferent synapse is mediated by the nicotinic α9α10 receptor coupled to the activation of SK2 Ca2+-activated K+ channels that hyperpolarize the cell. So far, the ion channels that support and/or modulate neurotransmitter release from the OC terminals remain unknown. To identify these channels, we used an isolated mouse cochlear preparation and monitored transmitter release from the efferent synaptic terminals in inner hair cells (IHCs) voltage-clamped in the whole-cell recording configuration. Acetylcholine (ACh) release was evoked by electrically stimulating the efferent fibers that make axosomatic contacts with IHCs before the onset of hearing. Using the specific antagonists for P/Q-and N-type voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs), ω-agatoxin IVA and ω-conotoxin GVIA, respectively, we show that Ca2+ entering through both types of VGCCs support the release process at this synapse. Interestingly, we found that Ca2+ entering through the dihydropiridine-sensitive L-type VGCCs exerts a negative control on transmitter release. Moreover, using immunostaining techniques combined with electrophysiology and pharmacology, we show that BK Ca2+-activated K+ channels are transiently expressed at the OC efferent terminals contacting IHCs and that their activity modulates the release process at this synapse. The effects of dihydropiridines combined with iberiotoxin, a specific BK channel antagonist, strongly suggest that L-type VGCCs negatively regulate the release of ACh by fueling BK channels which are known to curtail the duration of the terminal action potential in several types of neurons.
Synaptic transmission; Calcium channels; BK channels; cochlea; hair cells; efferent
Mammalian auditory hair cells are few in number, experimentally inaccessible, and do not proliferate postnatally or in vitro. Immortal cell lines with the potential to differentiate into auditory hair cells would substantially facilitate auditory research, drug development, and the isolation of critical molecules involved in hair cell biology. We have established two conditionally immortal cell lines that express at least five characteristic hair cell markers. These markers are the transcription factor Brn3.1, the alpha 9 subunit of the acetylcholine receptor, the stereociliary protein fimbrin and the myosins VI and VIIA. These hair cell precursors permit functional studies of cochlear genes and in the longer term they will provide the means to explore therapeutic methods of stimulating auditory hair cell regeneration.
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
The transduction of sound in the auditory periphery, the cochlea, is inhibited by efferent cholinergic neurons projecting from the brainstem and synapsing directly on mechanosensory hair cells. One fundamental question in auditory neuroscience is what role(s) this feedback plays in our ability to hear. In the present study, we have engineered a genetically modified mouse model in which the magnitude and duration of efferent cholinergic effects are increased, and we assess the consequences of this manipulation on cochlear function. We generated the Chrna9L9′T line of knockin mice with a threonine for leucine change (L9′T) at position 9′ of the second transmembrane domain of the α9 nicotinic cholinergic subunit, rendering α9-containing receptors that were hypersensitive to acetylcholine and had slower desensitization kinetics. The Chrna9L9′T allele produced a 3-fold prolongation of efferent synaptic currents in vitro. In vivo, Chrna9L9′T mice had baseline elevation of cochlear thresholds and efferent-mediated inhibition of cochlear responses was dramatically enhanced and lengthened: both effects were reversed by strychnine blockade of the α9α10 hair cell nicotinic receptor. Importantly, relative to their wild-type littermates, Chrna9L9′T/L9′T mice showed less permanent hearing loss following exposure to intense noise. Thus, a point mutation designed to alter α9α10 receptor gating has provided an animal model in which not only is efferent inhibition more powerful, but also one in which sound-induced hearing loss can be restrained, indicating the ability of efferent feedback to ameliorate sound trauma.
Nicotinic cholinergic receptors are essential to higher order brain function. Structurally, these operate through a myriad of ligand-gated pentameric arrangements of different homologous subunits. Here, we report progress in understanding the structural properties of a neuronal nicotinic receptor at the synapse. Receptors assembled from two nicotinic cholinergic subunits (α9 and α10) serve exclusively at the synapse between central nervous system descending fibers and cochlear hair cells. This enabled us to show direct causality between a point mutation of the α9 subunit, and predicted alterations in the synaptic strength in sensory hair cells of the cochlea of α9 point mutant mice. Furthermore, this single mutation results in profound enhancement of central nervous system feedback to the cochlea. And finally, as a consequence, mutant mice possessing this altered receptor have substantially improved resistance to traumatic sound. Thus, central neuronal feedback on cochlear hair cells provides an opportunity to define one specific role that nicotinic receptors can play in the nervous system, enabling study from biophysical to behavioral levels and promoting a target for the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss.
A point mutation in the cochlear hair cell nicotinic cholinergic receptor leads to strengthened central nervous system feedback to the cochlea and enhances protection from noise-induced hearing loss.
Effects of a single local dose of gentamicin upon sensory and nonsensory cells throughout the cochlea were assessed by changes in immunostaining patterns for a broad array of functionally important proteins. Cytochemical changes in hair cells, spiral ganglion cells, and cells of the stria vascularis, spiral ligament, and spiral limbus were found beginning 4 days post administration. The extent of changes in immunostaining varied with survival time and with cell type and was not always commensurate with the degree to which individual cell types accumulated gentamicin. Outer hair cells, types I and II fibrocytes of the spiral ligament, and fibrocytes in the spiral limbus showed marked decreases in immunostaining for a number of constituents. In contrast, inner hair cells, type III fibrocytes and root cells of the spiral ligament, cells of the stria vascularis, and interdental cells in the spiral limbus showed less dramatic decreases, and in some cases they showed increases in immunostaining. Results indicate that, in addition to damaging sensory cells, local application of gentamicin results in widespread and disparate disruptions of a variety of cochlear cell types. Only in the case of ganglion cells was it apparent that the changes in nonsensory cells were secondary to loss or damage of hair cells. These results indicate that malfunction of the ear following gentamicin treatment is widespread and far more complex than simple loss of sensory elements. The results have implications for efforts directed toward detecting, preventing, and treating toxic effects of aminoglycosides upon the inner ear.
aminoglycoside toxicity; spiral ligament; organ of Corti; immunostaining
Cochlear hair cells (HCs) are mechanosensory receptors that transduce sound into electrical signals. HC damage in non-mammalian vertebrates induces surrounding supporting cells (SCs) to divide, transdifferentiate and replace lost HCs; however, such spontaneous HC regeneration does not occur in the mammalian cochlea. Here, we acutely ablate the retinoblastoma protein (Rb), a crucial cell cycle regulator, in two subtypes of postmitotic SCs (pillar and Deiters’ cells) using an inducible Cre line, Prox1-CreERT2. Inactivation of Rb in these SCs results in cell cycle reentry of both pillar and Deiters’ cells, and completion of cell division with an increase in cell number of pillar cells. Interestingly, nuclei of Rb−/− mitotic pillar and Deiters’ cells migrate toward the HC layer and divide near the epithelial surface in a manner similar to the SCs in the regenerating avian auditory epithelium. In contrast to postmitotic Rb−/− HCs which abort cell division, postmitotic Rb−/− pillar cells can proliferate, maintain their SC fate and survive for more than a week. However, no newly formed HCs are detected and SC death followed by HC loss occurs. Our studies accomplish a crucial step toward functional HC regeneration in the mammalian cochlea in vivo, demonstrating the critical role of Rb in maintaining quiescence of postmitotic pillar and Deiters’ cells and highlighting the heterogeneity between these two cell types. Therefore, the combination of transient Rb inactivation and further manipulation of transcription factors (i.e., Atoh1 activation) in SCs may represent an effective therapeutic avenue for HC regeneration in the mammalian cochlea.
hair cell; regeneration; proliferation; differentiation; cell cycle; cochlea
In recent years, P1 phage Cre-recombinase has become an indispensable tool for conditional activation and/or inactivation of genes in the mouse. By fusing Cre to a tamoxifen-sensitive form of the estrogen receptor (Cre-ER™) temporal regulation of gene expression can be achieved. Here, we report the initial characterization of the Cre-ER™ system for controlling gene expression in the lens of the mouse. Cre-ER™ mice were crossed with a reporter strain (Z/EG; lacZ/EGFP). Following IP injection of tamoxifen into Cre-ER™;Z/EG mice, GFP expression was observed in 1–5% of lens epithelial and fiber cells. GFP expression was maintained for at least six months although, in the fibers, GFP appeared to diffuse from the cells as they were internalized into the lens. The rate of elongation of the fiber cells was determined by measuring the length of GFP-expressing cells at intervals after tamoxifen injection. The results of this calculation suggested that tamoxifen treatment induced GFP expression predominantly in lens epithelial cells. The GFP-positive fibers were apparently derived from this cell population. The strong induced expression of GFP in a small proportion of lens cells allowed individual lens cells to be identified in the intact tissue and should serve as a useful lineage marker to track the fate of lens cells and their descendents.
Lens; Cre recombinase; GFP; inducible expression
Cochlear spiral ganglion neurons (SGN) provide the only pathway for transmitting sound evoked activity from the hair cells to the central auditory system. Neurotrophic factor-3 (NT-3) and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) released from hair cells and supporting cells exert a profound effect on SGN survival and neural firing patterns; however, it is unclear what the effects NT-3 and BDNF have on the type of neurotransmitter receptors expressed on SGN. To address this question, the whole-cell patch clamp recording technique was used to determine what effect NT-3 and BDNF had on the function and expression of glutamate, GABA and glycine receptors on postnatal SGN. Receptor currents induced by the agonist of each receptor were recorded from SGN cultured with or without BDNF or NT-3. NT-3 and BDNF exerted different effects. NT-3, and to a lesser extent BDNF, enhanced the expression of GABA receptors and had comparatively little effect on glutamate receptors. Absence of BDNF and NT-3 resulted in the emergence of glycine-induced currents; however, glycine receptor currents were absent from the short term cultured SGN. In contrast, NT-3 and BDNF suppressed glycine receptor expression on SGN. These results indicate that NT-3 and BDNF exert a profound effect on the types of neurotransmitter receptors expressed on postnatal SGN, results that may have important implications for neural development and plasticity.
Spiral ganglion; Glycine; BDNF; NT-3; Plasticity; Whole-cell recording