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Scar Formation and Debris Elimination during Hair Cell Degeneration in the Adult DTR Mouse

Lee, S;Kurioka, T;Lee, MY;Beyer, LA;Swiderski, DL;Ritter, KE;Raphael, Y;

The auditory sensory epithelium of the mammalian inner ear is a highly organized structure that contains sensory hair cells (HCs) and non-sensory supporting cells (SCs). Following the partial loss of HCs after cochlear insults such as overstimulation or ototoxic drugs, SCs seal the luminal epithelial surface (reticular lamina) and reorganize its cellular pattern. Here we investigated the changes in the sensory epithelium following a rapid and severe cochlear insult in the diphtheria toxin receptor (DTR) mouse, where diphtheria toxin (DT) injection leads to a HC-specific lesion resulting in a complete HC loss. We found that DT-induced selective HC ablation could lead to a pattern of scar formation and apical cell-cell adherens and tight junction reorganization similar to that occurring after other types of cochlear insult. Prestin, an outer HC-specific protein, was present in amorphous clumps at the sites where SCs had expanded to fill the spaces vacated by the dead HCs for up to 2?months after the DT induced lesion. Many of the prestin clumps appeared to occupy spaces within SCs, suggesting that SCs participate in the removal process of HC corpses in the DTR deafness model. Prestin clumps could be seen in different areas all along the length of the SCs, and appeared to be inside the SCs as well as in the inter-cellular spaces between SCs. The findings suggest that HC elimination in the DTR deafness model follows a mechanism similar to that in overstimulation or ototoxicity models, making the DTR mouse useful for understanding the process underlying HC elimination and the role of SCs in this process.