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Arrest of Apoptosis in Auditory Neurons: Implications for Sensorineural Preservation in Cochlear Implantation

Scarpidis, Ulysses*; Madnani, Dilip*; Shoemaker, Cynthia; Fletcher, Craig H.; Kojima, Ken; Eshraghi, Adrien A.; Staecker, Hinrich§; Lefebvre, Phillipe¶∥; Malgrange, Brigitte; Balkany, Thomas J.; Van De Water, Thomas R.‡∥

COCHLEAR IMPLANTS
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Hypothesis The JNK/c-Jun cell death pathway is a major pathway responsible for the loss of oxidative stress-damaged auditory neurons.

Background Implantation of patients with residual hearing accentuates the need to preserve functioning sensorineural elements. Although some auditory function may survive electrode insertion, the probability of initiating an ongoing loss of auditory neurons and hair cells is unknown. Cochlear implantation can potentially generate oxidative stress, which can initiate the cell death of both auditory neurons and hair cells.

Methods Dissociated cell cultures of P4 rat auditory neurons identified the apoptotic pathway initiated by oxidative stress insults (e.g., loss of trophic factor support) and characterized this pathway by arresting translation of pathway-specific mRNA with antisense oligonucleotide treatment and with the use of pathway specific inhibitors. The presence or absence of apoptosis-specific protein and changes in the level of neuronal survival measured the efficacy of these interventional strategies.

Results These in vitro studies identified the JNK/c-Jun cascade as a major initiator of apoptosis of auditory neurons in response to oxidative stress. Neurons pretreated with c-jun antisense oligonucleotide and exposed to high levels of oxidative stress were rescued from apoptosis, whereas neurons in treatment control cultures died. Treatment of oxidative-stressed cultures with either curcumin, a MAPKKK pathway inhibitor, or PD-098059, a MEK1 inhibitor, blocked loss of neurons via the JNK/c-Jun apoptotic pathway.

Conclusion Blocking the JNK/c-Jun cell death pathway is a feasible approach to treating oxidative stress–induced apoptosis within the cochlea and may have application as an otoprotective strategy during cochlear implantation.

Departments of *Otolaryngology and †Pathology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York; ‡University of Miami Ear Institute, Department of Otolaryngology, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida; §Division of Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; ¶Department of Otolaryngology and Audiophonology and Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, University of Liege, Liege, Belgium

Supported by a grant from MedEl Corporation to T.R.V. and T.J.B.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Thomas R. Van De Water, Cochlear Implant Research Program, University of Miami Ear Institute, 1600 N.W. 10th Avenue, RMSB 3160, Miami, FL 33136, U.S.A.; Email: tvandewater@med.miami.edu

© 2003 Otology & Neurotology, Inc.