Spontaneous hair cell regeneration in the mouse utricle following gentamicin ototoxicity

Hear Res. 2009 Jan;247(1):17-26. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2008.08.010. Epub 2008 Sep 7.


Whereas most epithelial tissues turn-over and regenerate after a traumatic lesion, this restorative ability is diminished in the sensory epithelia of the inner ear; it is absent in the cochlea and exists only in a limited capacity in the vestibular epithelium. The extent of regeneration in vestibular hair cells has been characterized for several mammalian species including guinea pig, rat, and chinchilla, but not yet in mouse. As the fundamental model species for investigating hereditary disease, the mouse can be studied using a wide variety of genetic and molecular tools. To design a mouse model for vestibular hair cell regeneration research, an aminoglycoside-induced method of complete hair cell elimination was developed in our lab and applied to the murine utricle. Loss of utricular hair cells was observed using scanning electron microscopy, and corroborated by a loss of fluorescent signal in utricles from transgenic mice with GFP-positive hair cells. Regenerative capability was characterized at several time points up to six months following insult. Using scanning electron microscopy, we observed that as early as two weeks after insult, a few immature hair cells, demonstrating the characteristic immature morphology indicative of regeneration, could be seen in the utricle. As time progressed, larger numbers of immature hair cells could be seen along with some mature cells resembling surface morphology of type II hair cells. By six months post-lesion, numerous regenerated hair cells were present in the utricle, however, neither their number nor their appearance was normal. A BrdU assay suggested that at least some of the regeneration of mouse vestibular hair cells involved mitosis. Our results demonstrate that the vestibular sensory epithelium in mice can spontaneously regenerate, elucidate the time course of this process, and identify involvement of mitosis in some cases. These data establish a road map of the murine vestibular regenerative process, which can be used for elucidating the molecular events that govern this process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Gentamicins / adverse effects*
  • Gentamicins / pharmacology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / drug effects
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / ultrastructure
  • Hearing Loss / chemically induced*
  • Hearing Loss / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mitosis / drug effects
  • Models, Animal
  • Regeneration / physiology*
  • Saccule and Utricle / cytology
  • Saccule and Utricle / drug effects
  • Saccule and Utricle / physiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Gentamicins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins