Developmental changes that influence the results of removal of afferent input on the survival of neurons of the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) of mice were examined with the hope of providing a suitable model for understanding the cellular and molecular basis for these developmental changes in susceptibility. We performed unilateral cochlear ablation on wild-type mice at a variety of ages around the time of hearing onset to determine developmental changes in the sensitivity of AVCN neurons to afferent deprivation. In postnatal day 5 (P5) mice, cochlea removal resulted in 61% neuronal loss in the AVCN. By age P14, fewer than 1% of AVCN neurons were lost after this manipulation. This reveals a rather abrupt change in the sensitivity to disruption of afferent input, a critical period. We next investigated the temporal events associated with neuron loss after cochlea removal in susceptible animals. We demonstrate that significant cell loss occurs within 48 hours of cochlea removal in P7 animals. Furthermore, evidence of apoptosis was observed within 12 hours of cochlea removal, suggesting that the molecular events leading to cell loss after afferent deprivation begin to occur within hours of cochlea removal. Finally, we began to examine the role of the bcl-2 gene family in regulating afferent deprivation-induced cell death in the mouse AVCN. AVCN neurons in mature bcl-2 knockout mice demonstrate susceptibility to removal of afferent input comparable to neonatal sensitivity of wild-type controls. These data suggest that bcl-2 is one effector of cell survival as these cells switch from afferent-dependent to -independent survival mechanisms.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.