The Journal of comparative neurology

Dopaminergic innervation of the mouse inner ear: evidence for a separate cytochemical group of cochlear efferent fibers.

PMID 16871528


Immunostaining mouse cochleas for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and dopamine beta-hydroxylase suggests that there is a rich adrenergic innervation throughout the auditory nerve trunk and a small dopaminergic innervation of the sensory cell areas. Surgical cuts in the brainstem confirm these dopaminergic fibers as part of the olivocochlear efferent bundle. Within the sensory epithelium, TH-positive terminals are seen only in the inner hair cell area, where they intermingle with other olivocochlear terminals expressing cholinergic markers (vesicular acetylcholine transporter; VAT). Double immunostaining suggests little colocalization of TH and VAT; quantification of terminal volumes suggests that TH-positive fibers constitute only 10-20% of the efferent innervation of the inner hair cell area. Immunostaining of mouse brainstem revealed a small population of TH-positive cells in and around the lateral superior olive. Consistent with cochlear projections, double staining for the cholinergic marker acetylcholinesterase suggested that TH-positive somata are not cholinergic and vice versa. All observations are consistent with the view that a small dopaminergic subgroup of lateral olivocochlear neurons 1) projects to the inner hair cell area, 2) is distinct from the larger cholinergic group projecting there, and 3) may correspond to lateral olivocochlear "shell" neurons described by others (Warr et al. [1997] Hear. Res 108:89-111).