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PKCα-Mediated Signals Regulate the Motile Responses of Cochlear Outer Hair Cells


There is strong evidence that changes in the actin/spectrin-based cortical cytoskeleton of outer hair cells (OHCs) regulate their motile responses as well as cochlear amplification, the process that optimizes the sensitivity and frequency selectivity of the mammalian inner ear. Since a RhoA/protein kinase C (PKC)-mediated pathway is known to inhibit the actin-spectrin interaction in other cell models, we decided to investigate whether this signaling cascade could also participate in the regulation of OHC motility. We used high-speed video microscopy and confocal microscopy to explore the effects of pharmacological activation of PKCα, PKCβI, PKCβII, PKCδ, PKCε, and PKCζ with lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) and their inhibition with bisindolylmaleimide I, as well as inhibition of RhoA and Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK) with C3 and Y-27632, respectively. Motile responses were induced in isolated guinea pig OHCs by stimulation with an 8 V/cm external alternating electrical field as 50 Hz bursts of square wave pulses (100 ms on/off). We found that LPA increased expression of PKCα and PKCζ only, with PKCα, but not PKCζ, phosphorylating the cytoskeletal protein adducin of both Ser-726 and Thr-445. Interestingly, however, inhibition of PKCα reduced adducin phosphorylation only at Ser-726. We also determined that LPA activation of a PKCα-mediated signaling pathway simultaneously enhanced OHC electromotile amplitude and cell shortening, and facilitated RhoA/ROCK/LIMK1-mediated cofilin phosphorylation. Altogether, our results suggest that PKCα-mediated signals, probably via adducin-mediated inhibition of actin-spectrin binding and cofilin-mediated depolymerization of actin filaments, play an essential role in the homeostatic regulation of OHC motility and cochlear amplification.

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