The Journal of comparative neurology

Developmental expression of the actin depolymerizing factor ADF in the mouse inner ear and spiral ganglia.

PMID 20235171


Hair cells, the inner ear's sensory cells, are characterized by tens to hundreds of actin-rich stereocilia that form the hair bundle apparatus necessary for mechanoelectrical transduction. Both the number and length of actin filaments are precisely regulated in stereocilia. Proper cochlear and vestibular function also depends on actin filaments in nonsensory supporting cells. The formation of actin filaments is a dynamic, treadmill-like process in which actin-binding proteins play crucial roles. However, little is known about the presence and function of actin binding molecules in the inner ear, which set up, and maintain, actin-rich structures and regulate actin turnover. Here we examined the expression and subcellular location of the actin filament depolymerizing factor (ADF) in the cochlea and vestibular organs. By means of immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy, we analyzed whole-mount preparations and cross-sections in fetal and postnatal mice (E15-P26). We found a transient ADF expression in immature hair cells of the organ of Corti, the utricle, and the saccule. Interestingly, the stereocilia were not labeled. By P26, ADF expression was restricted to supporting cells. In addition, we localized ADF in presynaptic terminals of medio-olivocochlear projections after hearing onset. A small population of spiral ganglion neurons strongly expressed ADF. Based on their relative number, peripheral location within the ganglion, smaller soma size, and coexpression of neurofilament 200, we identified these cells as Type II spiral ganglion neurons. The developmentally regulated ADF expression suggests a temporally restricted function in the stereocilia and, thus, a hitherto undescribed role of ADF.