Vestibular compensation is a central nervous system process resulting in recovery of functional movement and control following a unilateral vestibular lesion. Small pressure injections of phosphorothioate 20mer oligonucleotides were used to probe the role of the Fos transcription protein during vestibular compensation in the gerbil brainstem. During isoflurane gas anesthesia, antisense probes against the c-fos mRNA sequence were injected into the medial vestibular and prepositus nuclei unilaterally prior to a unilateral surgical labyrinthectomy. Anionic dyes, which did not interact with the oligonucleotides, were used to mark the injection site and help determine the extent of diffusion. The antiFos oligonucleotide injections reduced Fos expression at the injection site in neurons which normally express Fos after the lesion, and also affected circling behavior induced by hemilabyrinthectomy. With both ipsilateral and contralateral medial vestibular and prepositus nuclei injections, less ipsilateral and more contralateral circling was noted in animals injected with antiFos injections as compared to non-injected controls. The degree of change in these behaviors was dependent upon the side of the injection. Histologically, antiFos injections reduced the number of Fos immunolabeled neurons around the injection site, and increased Fos expression contralaterally. The correlation of the number of neurons with Fos expression to turning behavior was stronger for contralateral versus ipsilateral turns, and for neurons in the caudal and ipsilateral sub-regions of the medial vestibular and prepositus nuclei. The results are discussed in terms of neuronal firing activity versus translational activity based on the asymmetrical expression of the Fos inducible transcription factor in the medial vestibular and prepositus nuclei. Although ubiquitous in the brain, transcription factors like Fos can serve localized and specific roles in sensory-specific adaptive stimuli. Antisense injections can be an effective procedure for localized intervention into complex physiological functions, e.g. vestibular compensation.
Copyright 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.