Gap junction systems in the rat vestibular labyrinth: immunohistochemical and ultrastructural analysis

Acta Otolaryngol. 1994 Sep;114(5):520-8. doi: 10.3109/00016489409126097.


The distribution of gap junctions within the vestibular labyrinth was investigated using immunohistochemistry and transmission electron microscopy. Connexin26-like immunoreactivity was observed among supporting cells in each vestibular sensory epithelium. Reaction product was also present in the transitional epithelium of each vestibular endorgan and in the planum semilunatum of crista ampullaris. No connexin26-like immunoreactivity was observed among thin wall epithelial cells or among vestibular dark cells. In addition, fibrocytes within vestibular connective tissue were positively immunostained. Reaction product was also detected in the melanocyte area just beneath dark cells. Ultrastructural observations indicated that a gap junction network of vestibular supporting cells extends to the transitional epithelium and planum semilunatum and forms an isolated epithelial cell gap junction system in each vestibular endorgan. In contrast, no gap junctions were found among wall epithelial cells or among dark cells. Fibrocytes and melanocytes were coupled by gap junctions and belong to the connective tissue cell gap junction system, which is continuous throughout the vestibular system and the cochlea. The possible functional significance of these gap junction systems is discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Connexin 26
  • Connexins / metabolism
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / ultrastructure
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • Gap Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Melanocytes / metabolism
  • Melanocytes / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Rats
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / metabolism*
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / ultrastructure


  • Connexins
  • Connexin 26
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine