Systemically administered aminoglycoside antibiotics can enter inner ear hair cells and trigger apoptosis. However, the in vivo route(s) by which aminoglycoside antibiotics enter hair cells remains controversial. Aminoglycosides can enter mouse hair cells by endocytosis or by permeation through transmembrane ion channels such as sensory mechanoelectrical transduction (MET) channels, transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, P2X channels, Piezo2-containing ion channels, or a combination of these routes. Transmembrane channel-like 1 (TMC1) and TMC2 are essential for sensory MET and appear to be the pore-forming components of sensory MET channels. The present study tested the hypothesis that systemic fluorescent gentamicin enters mouse hair cells predominantly through sensory MET channels. We employed Tmc1Δ, Tmc2Δ, and Tmc1::mCherry mice. In Tmc1::mCherry mice, the transgene was integrated on the X chromosome, resulting in mosaic expression of TMC1-mCherry in the hair cells of female heterozygous mice. After systemic administration of gentamicin-conjugated Texas Red (GTTR) into Tmc1Δ;Tmc2Δ mice and wild-type mice at postnatal day 4 (P4), robust GTTR fluorescence was detected in wild-type hair cells, whereas little or no GTTR fluorescence was detected in Tmc1Δ;Tmc2Δ hair cells. When GTTR was injected into developing mice at P0, P2, P4, or P6, the GTTR fluorescent intensity gradually increased from P0 to P4 in wild-type hair cells, whereas the intensity was stably low from P0 through P6 in Tmc1Δ;Tmc2Δ hair cells. The increase in the GTTR intensity coincided with the spatio-temporal onset of sensory MET in wild-type hair cells. In Tmc1::mCherry cochleae, only hair cells that showed a significant uptake of systemic GTTR took up FM1-43. Transmission electron microscopy could detect no disruption of normal endocytosis at the apical surface of Tmc1Δ;Tmc2Δ hair cells in vitro. These results provide substantial novel evidence that in vivo gentamicin enters neonatal mouse hair cells predominantly through sensory MET channels and not via endocytosis.
Keywords: TMC1; TMC2; aminoglycoside; hair cell; ototoxicity.