Pituitary adenylyl cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) and its receptor (PAC1-R) are positioned to modulate afferent signaling in the cochlea.

PMID 16876955


Pituitary adenylyl cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP), via its specific receptor pituitary adenylyl cyclase-activating polypeptide receptor 1 (PAC1-R), is known to have roles in neuromodulation and neuroprotection associated with glutamatergic and cholinergic neurotransmission, which, respectively, are believed to form the primary basis for afferent and efferent signaling in the organ of Corti. Previously, we identified transcripts for PACAP preprotein and multiple splice variants of its receptor, PAC1-R, in microdissected cochlear subfractions. In the present work, neural localizations of PACAP and PAC1-R within the organ of Corti and spiral ganglion were examined, defining sites of PACAP action. Immunolocalization of PACAP and PAC1-R in the organ of Corti and spiral ganglion was compared with immunolocalization of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and synaptophysin as efferent neuronal markers, and glutamate receptor 2/3 (GluR2/3) and neurofilament 200 as afferent neuronal markers, for each of the three cochlear turns. Brightfield microscopy giving morphological detail for individual immunolocalizations was followed by immunofluorescence detection of co-localizations. PACAP was found to be co-localized with ChAT in nerve fibers of the intraganglionic spiral bundle and beneath the inner and outer hair cells within the organ of Corti. Further, evidence was obtained that PACAP is expressed in type I afferent axons leaving the spiral ganglion en route to the auditory nerve, potentially serving as a neuromodulator in axonal terminals. In contrast to the efferent localization of PACAP within the organ of Corti, PAC1-R immunoreactivity was co-localized with afferent dendritic neuronal marker GluR2/3 in nerve fibers passing beneath and lateral to the inner hair cell and in fibers at supranuclear and basal sites on outer hair cells. Given the known association of PACAP with catecholaminergic neurotransmission in sympathoadrenal function, we also re-examined the issue of whether the organ of Corti receives adrenergic innervation. We now demonstrate the existence of nerve fibers within the organ of Corti which are immunoreactive for the adrenergic marker dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH). DBH immunoreactivity was particularly prominent in nerve fibers both at the base and near the cuticular plate of outer hair cells of the apical turn, extending to the non-sensory Hensen's cell region. Evidence was obtained for limited co-localization of DBH with PAC1-R and PACAP. In the process of this investigation, we obtained evidence that efferent and afferent nerve fibers, in addition to adrenergic nerve fibers, are present at supranuclear sites on outer hair cells and distributed within the non-sensory epithelium of the apical cochlear turn for rat, based upon immunoreactivity for the corresponding neuronal markers. Overall, PACAP is hypothesized to act within the organ of Corti as an efferent neuromodulator of afferent signaling via PAC1-R that is present on type I afferent dendrites, in position to afford protection from excitotoxicity. Additionally, PACAP/PAC1-R may modulate secretion of catecholamines from adrenergic terminals within the organ of Corti.