Trafficking of systemic fluorescent gentamicin into the cochlea and hair cells

Qi Wang, Peter S. Steyger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Aminoglycosides enter inner ear hair cells across their apical membranes via endocytosis, or through the mechanoelectrical transduction channels in vitro, suggesting that these drugs enter cochlear hair cells from endolymph to exert their cytotoxic effect. We used zebrafish to determine if fluorescently tagged gentamicin (GTTR) also enters hair cells via apically located calcium-sensitive cation channels and the cytotoxicity of GTTR to hair cells. We then examined the serum kinetics of GTTR following systemic injection in mice and which murine cochlear sites preferentially loaded with systemically administered GTTR over time by confocal microscopy. GTTR is taken up by, and is toxic to, wild-type zebrafish neuromast hair cells. Neuromast hair cell uptake of GTTR is attenuated by high concentrations of extracellular calcium or unconjugated gentamicin and is blocked in mariner mutant zebrafish, suggestive of entry via the apical mechanotransduction channel. In murine cochleae, GTTR is preferentially taken up by the stria vascularis compared to the spiral ligament, peaking 3 h after intra-peritoneal injection, following GTTR kinetics in serum. Strial marginal cells display greater intensity of GTTR fluorescence compared to intermediate and basal cells. Immunofluorescent detection of gentamicin in the cochlea also revealed widespread cellular labeling throughout the cochlea, with preferential labeling of marginal cells. Only GTTR fluorescence displayed increasing cytoplasmic intensity with increasing concentration, unlike the cytoplasmic intensity of fluorescence from immunolabeled gentamicin. These data suggest that systemically administered aminoglycosides are trafficked from strial capillaries into marginal cells and clear into endolymph. If so, this will facilitate electrophoretically driven aminoglycoside entry into hair cells from endolymph. Trans-strial trafficking of aminoglycosides from strial capillaries to marginal cells will be dependent on as-yet-unidentified mechanisms that convey these drugs across the intra-strial electrical barrier and into marginal cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-219
Number of pages15
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Aminoglycosides
  • Blood-labyrinth barrier
  • Cochlea
  • Hair cells
  • Marginal cells
  • Ototoxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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