Macrophage migration inhibitory factor acts as a neurotrophin in the developing inner ear.
Recent studies have demonstrated a role for neurotrophins in regulating the survival of developing auditory and vestibular neurons. However, the developmental time-course for neurotrophin production and release by inner ear tissues has not been defined. In the present study, neurotrophin-like activity was evaluated from culture medium conditioned by early- or midembryonic stage inner ears. Examination of the proteinaceous properties of conditioned medium revealed a developmental change in growth factor release by the inner ear. Neurotrophin-like molecules were not detected in medium conditioned by early stage otocysts. In contrast, neurotrophin-like bioactivity was detected in medium conditioned by middevelopmental stage inner ears. Western blot analysis revealed that NT-3 was released by the rat inner ear at midstages of inner ear development. ELISA measurements revealed that both NT-3 and BDNF are produced by the middevelopmental stage inner ear, and that NT-3 protein levels are higher than BDNF levels. These results suggest that there are developmental changes in the release of growth factors by the inner ear.