A point mutation in the hair cell nicotinic cholinergic receptor prolongs cochlear inhibition and enhances noise protection.
ABSTRACT: 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 alpha9 nicotinic cholinergic subunit, rendering alpha9-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 alpha9alpha10 hair cell nicotinic receptor. Importantly, relative to their wild-type littermates, Chrna9(L9'T/L9'T) mice showed less permanent hearing loss following exposure to intense noise. Thus, a point mutation designed to alter alpha9alpha10 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.
Project description:Cochlear inner hair cells (IHCs) release neurotransmitter onto afferent auditory nerve fibers in response to sound stimulation. During early development, synaptic transmission is triggered by spontaneous Ca2+ spikes which are modulated by an efferent cholinergic innervation to IHCs. This synapse is inhibitory and mediated by the alpha9alpha10 nicotinic cholinergic receptor (nAChR). After the onset of hearing, large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels are acquired and both the spiking activity and the efferent innervation disappear from IHCs. In this work, we studied the developmental changes in the membrane properties of cochlear IHCs from alpha10 nAChR gene (Chrna10) "knockout" mice. Electrophysiological properties of IHCs were studied by whole-cell recordings in acutely excised apical turns of the organ of Corti from developing mice. Neither the spiking activity nor the developmental functional expression of voltage-gated and/or calcium-sensitive K+ channels is altered in the absence of the alpha10 nAChR subunit. The present results show that the alpha10 nAChR subunit is not essential for the correct establishment of the intrinsic electrical properties of IHCs during development.
Project description:We report the cloning and characterization of rat alpha10, a previously unidentified member of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit gene family. The protein encoded by the alpha10 nAChR subunit gene is most similar to the rat alpha9 nAChR, and both alpha9 and alpha10 subunit genes are transcribed in adult rat mechanosensory hair cells. Injection of Xenopus laevis oocytes with alpha10 cRNA alone or in pairwise combinations with either alpha2-alpha6 or beta2-beta4 subunit cRNAs yielded no detectable ACh-gated currents. However, coinjection of alpha9 and alpha10 cRNAs resulted in the appearance of an unusual nAChR subtype. Compared with homomeric alpha9 channels, the alpha9alpha10 nAChR subtype displays faster and more extensive agonist-mediated desensitization, a distinct current-voltage relationship, and a biphasic response to changes in extracellular Ca(2+) ions. The pharmacological profiles of homomeric alpha9 and heteromeric alpha9alpha10 nAChRs are essentially indistinguishable and closely resemble those reported for endogenous cholinergic eceptors found in vertebrate hair cells. Our data suggest that efferent modulation of hair cell function occurs, at least in part, through heteromeric nAChRs assembled from both alpha9 and alpha10 subunits.
Project description:It has previously been shown that deletion of chrna9, the gene encoding the alpha9 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit, results in abnormal synaptic terminal structure. Additionally, all nAChR-mediated cochlear activity is lost, as characterized by a failure of the descending efferent system to suppress cochlear responses to sound. In an effort to characterize the molecular mechanisms underlying the structural and functional consequences following loss of alpha9 subunit expression, we performed whole-transcriptome gene expression analyses on cochleae of wild type and alpha9 knockout (alpha9(-/-)) mice during postnatal days spanning critical periods of synapse formation and maturation.Data revealed that loss of alpha9 receptor subunit expression leads to an up-regulation of genes involved in synaptic transmission and ion channel activity. Unexpectedly, loss of alpha9 receptor subunit expression also resulted in an increased expression of genes encoding GABA receptor subunits and the GABA synthetic enzyme, glutamic acid decarboxylase. These data suggest the existence of a previously unrecognized association between the nicotinic cholinergic and GABAergic systems in the cochlea. Computational analyses have highlighted differential expression of several gene sets upon loss of nicotinic cholinergic activity in the cochlea. Time-series analysis of whole transcriptome patterns, represented as self-organizing maps, revealed a disparate pattern of gene expression between alpha9(-/-) and wild type cochleae at the onset of hearing (P13), with knockout samples resembling immature postnatal ages.We have taken a systems biology approach to provide insight into molecular programs influenced by the loss of nicotinic receptor-based cholinergic activity in the cochlea and to identify candidate genes that may be involved in nicotinic cholinergic synapse formation, stabilization or function within the inner ear. Additionally, our data indicate a change in the GABAergic system upon loss of alpha9 nicotinic receptor subunit within the cochlea.
Project description:Efferent inhibition of cochlear outer hair cells is mediated by nicotinic cholinergic receptors containing alpha9 (a9) and alpha10 subunits. Mice lacking a9 nicotinic subunits fail to exhibit classic olivocochlear responses and are characterized by abnormal synaptic morphology at the base of outer hair cells. To detail molecular changes induced upon the loss of a9 subunit, we sampled cochlear RNA from wild type and a9 null mice at postnatal (P) days spanning periods of synapse formation and maturation (P3, P7, P13 and P60). Our findings point to a delay in cochlear maturation starting at the onset of hearing (P13), as well as an up-regulation of various GABA receptor subunits in adult mice lacking the a9 nicotinic subunit. Cochleae were removed at postnatal ages P3, P7, P13 and P60. Cochlear tissues from 3-5 mice were pooled per replicate; biological triplicates were performed for each age and genotype.
Project description:Efferent inhibition of cochlear outer hair cells is mediated by nicotinic cholinergic receptors containing alpha9 (a9) and alpha10 subunits. Mice lacking a9 nicotinic subunits fail to exhibit classic olivocochlear responses and are characterized by abnormal synaptic morphology at the base of outer hair cells. To detail molecular changes induced upon the loss of a9 subunit, we sampled cochlear RNA from wild type and a9 null mice at postnatal (P) days spanning periods of synapse formation and maturation (P3, P7, P13 and P60). Our findings point to a delay in cochlear maturation starting at the onset of hearing (P13), as well as an up-regulation of various GABA receptor subunits in adult mice lacking the a9 nicotinic subunit. Overall design: Cochleae were removed at postnatal ages P3, P7, P13 and P60. Cochlear tissues from 3-5 mice were pooled per replicate; biological triplicates were performed for each age and genotype.
Project description:Although homomeric channels assembled from the alpha9 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit are functional in vitro, electrophysiological, anatomical, and molecular data suggest that native cholinergic olivocochlear function is mediated via heteromeric nAChRs composed of both alpha9 and alpha10 subunits. To gain insight into alpha10 subunit function in vivo, we examined olivo cochlear innervation and function in alpha10 null-mutant mice. Electrophysiological recordings from postnatal (P) days P8-9 inner hair cells revealed ACh-gated currents in alpha10(+/+) and alpha10(+/-) mice, with no detectable responses to ACh in alpha10(-/-) mice. In contrast, a proportion of alpha10(-/-) outer hair cells showed small ACh-evoked currents. In alpha10(-/-) mutant mice, olivocochlear fiber stimulation failed to suppress distortion products, suggesting that the residual alpha9 homomeric nAChRs expressed by outer hair cells are unable to transduce efferent signals in vivo. Finally, alpha10(-/-) mice exhibit both an abnormal olivocochlear morphology and innervation to outer hair cells and a highly disorganized efferent innervation to the inner hair cell region. Our results demonstrate that alpha9(-/-) and alpha10(-/-) mice have overlapping but nonidentical phenotypes. Moreover, alpha10 nAChR subunits are required for normal olivocochlear activity because alpha9 homomeric nAChRs do not support maintenance of normal olivocochlear innervation or function in alpha10(-/-) mutant mice.
Project description:The efferent synaptic specialization of hair cells includes a near-membrane synaptic cistern, whose presence suggests a role for internal calcium stores in cholinergic inhibition. Calcium release channels from internal stores include 'ryanodine receptors', whose participation is usually demonstrated by sensitivity to the eponymous plant alkaloid, ryanodine. However, use of this and other store-active compounds on hair cells could be confounded by the unusual pharmacology of the alpha9alpha10-containing hair cell nicotinic cholinergic receptor (nAChR), which has been shown to be antagonized by a broad spectrum of compounds. Surprisingly, we found that ryanodine, rather than antagonizing, is a positive modulator of the alpha9alpha10 nAChR expressed in Xenopus oocytes, the first such compound to be found. The effect of ryanodine was to increase the apparent affinity and efficacy for acetylcholine (ACh). Correspondingly, ACh-evoked currents through the isolated cholinergic receptors of inner hair cells in excised mouse cochleas were approximately doubled by 200 microM ryanodine, a concentration that inhibits gating of the ryanodine receptor itself. This unusual positive modulation was not unique to the mammalian receptor. The response to ACh of chicken 'short' hair cells likewise was enhanced in the presence of 100 microM ryanodine. This facilitatory effect on current through the AChR could enhance brief ( approximately 1 s) activation of associated calcium-dependent K(+) (SK) channels in both chicken short hair cells and rat outer hair cells. This novel effect of ryanodine provides new opportunities for the design of compounds that potentiate alpha9alpha10-mediated responses and for potential inner ear therapeutics based on this interaction.
Project description:The dynamic adjustment of hearing sensitivity and frequency selectivity is mediated by the medial olivocochlear efferent reflex, which suppresses the gain of the 'cochlear amplifier' in each ear. Such efferent feedback is important for promoting discrimination of sounds in background noise, sound localization and protecting the cochleae from acoustic overstimulation. However, the sensory driver for the olivocochlear reflex is unknown. Here, we resolve this longstanding question using a mouse model null for the gene encoding the type III intermediate filament peripherin (Prph). Prph((-/-)) mice lacked type II spiral ganglion neuron innervation of the outer hair cells, whereas innervation of the inner hair cells by type I spiral ganglion neurons was normal. Compared with Prph((+/+)) controls, both contralateral and ipsilateral olivocochlear efferent-mediated suppression of the cochlear amplifier were absent in Prph((-/-)) mice, demonstrating that outer hair cells and their type II afferents constitute the sensory drive for the olivocochlear efferent reflex.
Project description:Patterned spontaneous activity is a hallmark of developing sensory systems. In the auditory system, rhythmic bursts of spontaneous activity are generated in cochlear hair cells and propagated along central auditory pathways. The role of these activity patterns in the development of central auditory circuits has remained speculative. Here we demonstrate that blocking efferent cholinergic neurotransmission to developing hair cells in mice that lack the ?9 subunit of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (?9 KO mice) altered the temporal fine structure of spontaneous activity without changing activity levels. KO mice showed a severe impairment in the functional and structural sharpening of an inhibitory tonotopic map, as evidenced by deficits in synaptic strengthening and silencing of connections and an absence in axonal pruning. These results provide evidence that the precise temporal pattern of spontaneous activity before hearing onset is crucial for the establishment of precise tonotopy, the major organizing principle of central auditory pathways.
Project description:Cochlear hair cells use SK2 currents to shape responses to cholinergic efferent feedback from the brain. Using SK2(-/-) mice, we demonstrate that, in addition to their previously defined role in modulating hair cell membrane potentials, SK2 channels are necessary for long-term survival of olivocochlear fibers and synapses. Loss of the SK2 gene also results in loss of electrically driven olivocochlear effects in vivo, and down regulation of ryanodine receptors involved in calcium-induced calcium release, the main inducer of nAChR evoked SK2 activity. Generation of double-null mice lacking both the alpha10 nAChR gene, loss of which results in hypertrophied olivocochlear terminals, and the SK2 gene, recapitulates the SK2(-/-) synaptic phenotype and gene expression, and also leads to down regulation of alpha9 nAChR gene expression. The data suggest a hierarchy of activity necessary to maintain early olivocochlear synapses at their targets, with SK2 serving an epistatic, upstream, role to the nAChRs.