Hepatocyte growth factor mimetic confers protection from aminoglycoside-induced hair cell death in vitro

Hear Res. 2023 Jul:434:108786. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2023.108786. Epub 2023 May 6.


Loss of sensory hair cells from exposure to certain licit drugs, such as aminoglycoside antibiotics, can result in permanent hearing damage. Exogenous application of the neurotrophic molecule hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) promotes neuronal cell survival in a variety of contexts, including protecting hair cells from aminoglycoside ototoxicity. HGF itself is not an ideal therapeutic due to a short half-life and limited blood-brain barrier permeability. MM-201 is a chemically stable, blood-brain barrier permeable, synthetic HGF mimetic that serves as a functional ligand to activate the HGF receptor and its downstream signaling cascade. We previously demonstrated that MM-201 robustly protects zebrafish lateral line hair cells from aminoglycoside ototoxicity. Here, we examined the ability of MM-201 to protect mammalian sensory hair cells from aminoglycoside damage to further evaluate MM-201's clinical potential. We found that MM-201 exhibited dose-dependent protection from neomycin and gentamicin ototoxicity in mature mouse utricular explants. MM-201's protection was reduced following inhibition of mTOR, a downstream target of HGF receptor activation, implicating the activation of endogenous intracellular substrates by MM-201 as critical for the observed protection. We then asked if MM-201 altered the bactericidal properties of aminoglycosides. Using either plate or liquid growth assays we found that MM-201 did not alter the bactericidal efficacy of aminoglycoside antibiotics at therapeutically relevant concentrations. We therefore assessed the protective capacity of MM-201 in an in vivo mouse model of kanamycin ototoxicity. In contrast to our in vitro data, MM-201 did not attenuate kanamycin ototoxicity in vivo. Further, we found that MM-201 was ototoxic to mice across the dose range tested here. These data suggest species- and tissue-specific differences in otoprotective capacity. Next generation HGF mimetics are in clinical trials for neurodegenerative diseases and show excellent safety profiles, but neither preclinical studies nor clinical trials have examined hearing loss as a potential consequence of pharmaceutical HGF activation. Further research is needed to determine the consequences of systemic MM-201 application on the auditory system.

Keywords: Aminoglycoside; Auditory brainstem response; Growth factor; Hair cell; Ototoxicity; Utricle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aminoglycosides* / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / toxicity
  • Cell Death
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor / pharmacology
  • Kanamycin / toxicity
  • Mammals
  • Mice
  • Ototoxicity*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met / pharmacology
  • Zebrafish


  • Aminoglycosides
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Kanamycin