The neuraminidase-1 (Neu1) knockout mouse model is a phenocopy of the lysosomal storage disease (LSD) sialidosis, characterized by multisystemic and neuropathic symptoms, including hearing loss. We have characterized the auditory defects in Neu1(-/-) mice and found that hearing loss involves both conductive and sensorineural components. Auditory brainstem response (ABR) thresholds were significantly elevated in Neu1(-/-) mice at P21 (48-55 dB), and hearing loss appeared progressive (53-66 dB at P60). At these ages Neu1(-/-) mice accumulated cerumen in the external ear canal and had a thickened mucosa and inflammation in the middle ear. In cochleae of adult wild-type mice, Neu1 was expressed in several cell types in the stria vascularis, the organ of Corti, and spiral ganglion. Progressive morphological abnormalities such as extensive vacuolization were detected in the Neu1(-/-) cochleae as early as P9. These early morphologic changes in Neu1(-/-) cochleae were associated with oversialylation of several lysosomal associated membrane proteins (Lamps) in the stria vascularis. A marked increase in the expression and apical localization of Lamp-1 in marginal cells of the stria vascularis predicts exacerbation of lysosomal exocytosis into the endolymph. Consequently, the endolymphatic potential in Neu1(-/-) mice was reduced by approximately 20 mV at ages P31-P44, which would cause dysfunction of transduction in sensory hair cells. This study suggests a molecular mechanism that contributes to hearing loss in sialidosis and identifies potential therapeutic targets.
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