Dissection of Adult Mouse Utricle and Adenovirus-mediated Supporting-cell Infection

Brandon, CS. etc
J Vis Exp, 2012

Hearing loss and balance disturbances are often caused by death of mechanosensory hair cells, which are the receptor cells of the inner ear. Since there is no cell line that satisfactorily represents mammalian hair cells, research on hair cells relies on primary organ cultures. The best-characterized in vitro model system of mature mammalian hair cells utilizes organ cultures of utricles from adult mice (Figure 1) 1-6. The utricle is a vestibular organ, and the hair cells of the utricle are similar in both structure and function to the hair cells in the auditory organ, the organ of Corti. The adult mouse utricle preparation represents a mature sensory epithelium for studies of the molecular signals that regulate the survival, homeostasis, and death of these cells.

Mammalian cochlear hair cells are terminally differentiated and are not regenerated when they are lost. In non-mammalian vertebrates, auditory or vestibular hair cell death is followed by robust regeneration which restores hearing and balance functions 7, 8. Hair cell regeneration is mediated by glia-like supporting cells, which contact the basolateral surfaces of hair cells in the sensory epithelium 9, 10. Supporting cells are also important mediators of hair cell survival and death 11. We have recently developed a technique for infection of supporting cells in cultured utricles using adenovirus. Using adenovirus type 5 (dE1/E3) to deliver a transgene containing GFP under the control of the CMV promoter, we find that adenovirus specifically and efficiently infects supporting cells. Supporting cell infection efficiency is approximately 25-50%, and hair cells are not infected (Figure 2). Importantly, we find that adenoviral infection of supporting cells does not result in toxicity to hair cells or supporting cells, as cell counts in Ad-GFP infected utricles are equivalent to those in non-infected utricles (Figure 3). Thus adenovirus-mediated gene expression in supporting cells of cultured utricles provides a powerful tool to study the roles of supporting cells as mediators of hair cell survival, death, and regeneration.

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J Vis Exp
DOI: 10.3791/3734