Epithelial–mesenchymal transition, and collective and individual cell migration regulate epithelial changes in the amikacin-damaged organ of Corti
Quiescence is among the hallmarks of the sensory epithelium of the cochlea. When auditory sensory cells (hair cells) degenerate they are not replaced, and therefore hearing loss is permanent. Cochlear hair cells are susceptible to several types of lesions, including aminoglycoside antibiotics. The application of the aminoglycoside neomycin in the inner ear mimics cases of severe hair cell loss and leads to collapse of the cochlear epithelium. We now report that in mature guinea pig cochleae injected with neomycin, the remaining nonsensory cells undergo robust proliferative response. p27( Kip1), an inhibitor of cell cycle in the cochlea, was present in nondividing cells and absent during mitosis. Dividing cells retained their tight junction complexes and maintained the structural confluence of the auditory epithelium during cell division. The plane of mitosis was invariably parallel to the luminal surface. These results indicate that the flat epithelium of the cochlea can down-regulate p27( Kip1) and divide after a severe lesion and suggest that the cell divisions assist in maintaining the epithelial confluence throughout the cochlea. Presence of mitosis in the tissue presents therapeutic opportunities for gene transfer and stem cells therapies.