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Keywords:

  • cochlea;
  • development;
  • efferent systems;
  • synapses

Abstract

To investigate a possible involvement of protein kinase C (PKC) in cochlear efferent neurotransmission, we studied the expression of the calcium-dependent PKC beta II isoform in the rat organ of Corti at different postnatal ages using immunofluorescence and immunoelectron microscopy. We found evidence of PKC beta II as early as postnatal day (PND) 5 in efferent axons running in the inner spiral bundle and in Hensen cells. At PND 8, we also found PKC beta II in efferents targeting outer hair cells (OHCs), and a slight detection at the synaptic pole in the first row of the basal and middle cochlear turns. At PND 12, PKC beta II expression declined in the efferent fibres contacting OHCs, whereas expression was concentrated at the postsynaptic membrane, from the basal and middle turns. The adult-like pattern of PKC beta II distribution was observed at PND 20. Throughout the cochlea, we found PKC beta II expression in the Hensen cells, non-sensory cells involved in potassium re-cycling, and lateral efferent terminals of the inner spiral bundle. In addition, we observed expression in OHCs at the postsynaptic membrane facing the endings of the medial efferent system, with the exception of some OHCs located in the most apical region of the cochlea. These data therefore suggest an involvement of PKC beta II in both cochlear efferent neurotransmission and ion homeostasis. Among other functions, PKC beta II could play a role in the efferent control of OHC activity.