Tracking the expression of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission-related proteins and neuroplasticity markers after noise induced hearing loss

PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33272. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033272. Epub 2012 Mar 12.


Excessive exposure to loud noise can damage the cochlea and create a hearing loss. These pathologies coincide with a range of CNS changes including reorganisation of frequency representation, alterations in the pattern of spontaneous activity and changed expression of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters. Moreover, damage to the cochlea is often accompanied by acoustic disorders such as hyperacusis and tinnitus, suggesting that one or more of these neuronal changes may be involved in these disorders, although the mechanisms remain unknown. We tested the hypothesis that excessive noise exposure increases expression of markers of excitation and plasticity, and decreases expression of inhibitory markers over a 32-day recovery period. Adult rats (n = 25) were monaurally exposed to a loud noise (16 kHz, 1/10(th) octave band pass (115 dB SPL)) for 1-hour, or left as non-exposed controls (n = 5). Animals were euthanased at either 0, 4, 8, 16 or 32 days following acoustic trauma. We used Western Blots to quantify protein levels of GABA(A) receptor subunit α1 (GABA(A)α1), Glutamic-Acid Decarboxylase-67 (GAD-67), N-Methyl-D-Aspartate receptor subunit 2A (NR2A), Calbindin (Calb1) and Growth Associated Protein 43 (GAP-43) in the Auditory Cortex (AC), Inferior Colliculus (IC) and Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus (DCN). Compared to sham-exposed controls, noise-exposed animals had significantly (p<0.05): lower levels of GABA(A)α1 in the contralateral AC at day-16 and day-32, lower levels of GAD-67 in the ipsilateral DCN at day-4, lower levels of Calb1 in the ipsilateral DCN at day-0, lower levels of GABA(A)α1 in the ipsilateral AC at day-4 and day-32. GAP-43 was reduced in the ipsilateral AC for the duration of the experiment. These complex fluctuations in protein expression suggests that for at least a month following acoustic trauma the auditory system is adapting to a new pattern of sensory input.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Calbindin 1
  • Calbindins
  • Cochlear Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem / physiology
  • GAP-43 Protein / metabolism
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / metabolism*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / genetics
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein G / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission / genetics
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Calb1 protein, rat
  • Calbindin 1
  • Calbindins
  • GAP-43 Protein
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein G
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • glutamate decarboxylase 1
  • N-methyl D-aspartate receptor subtype 2A