Suppression of Connexin 43 Leads to Strial Vascular Hyper-Permeability, Decrease in Endocochlear Potential, and Mild Hearing Loss

Jinhui Zhang, Xiaohan Wang, Zhiqiang Hou, Lingling Neng, Jing Cai, Yunpei Zhang, Xiaorui Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: Connexin 43 (Cx43) is a protein constituent of gap junctions (GJs) in various barrier cells, especially astrocytes and microglia of the blood-brain-barrier (BBB), where it plays an important role in intercellular communication and regulation of the barrier. Despite the importance of Cx43 in other blood barriers, not much attention has been paid to expression and function of Cx43 in the blood-labyrinth-barrier (BLB) of the stria vascularis in the cochlea. Methods: We used multiple research approaches, including immunocytochemical staining, patch-clamp dye loading technique, real-time quantitative reverse transcription (RT)-PCR, western blot, measurement of endocochlear potential (EP) with an electrode through the scala media, and auditory brainstem response to test hearing function. Results: We found Cx43 expressed in vascular endothelial cells (ECs) and perivascular resident macrophages (PVMs) in the stria vascularis of adult C57BL/6 mouse cochleae. In particular, we found Cx43 expressed in foot processes of PVMs at points of contact with the endothelium. Consistent with Cx43 expression in vivo, we also found Cx43 expressed in EC-EC and EC-PVM interfaces in a co-cultured cell line model. Using a patch-clamp dye loading technique, we demonstrated that Alexa Fluor® 568 dye injected into PVMs diffuses to connected neighboring ECs. The functional coupling between the ECs and PVMs is blocked by 18α-Glycyrrhetinic acid (18α-GA), a GJ blocker. Suppression of Cx43 with small interfering RNA (siRNA) in vivo significantly elevated hearing threshold and caused the EP to drop and the blood barrier to become more permeable. In further study, using in vitro primary EC cell line models, we demonstrated that suppression of Cx43 disrupts intercellular tight junctions (TJs) in the EC monolayer and increases endothelial monolayer permeability. Conculsion: Taken together, these findings underscore the importance of Cx43 expression in the normal ear for maintaining BLB integrity, normal EP, and hearing function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number974
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
StatePublished - Aug 14 2020


  • blood-labyrinth-barrier
  • connexin 43
  • endocochlear potential
  • hearing loss
  • mouse
  • perivascular macrophage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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