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Neuroscience. 2008 Feb 6;151(3):854-67. Epub 2007 Nov 17.

Oxidative stress and the deleterious consequences to the rat cochlea after prenatal chronic mild exposure to carbon monoxide in air.

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  • 1Surgery Department (Division of Head and Neck), David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Pregnant rats (starting on E5) were exposed chronically to carbon monoxide (CO) from gestational days 5-20. In the postnatal period, rat pups were grouped as follows: group A: prenatal exposure to CO only; group B: prenatal exposure to CO then exposed to CO from postnatal day (P) 5 to P20; group C, control (air without CO). Groups A and B showed similar deleterious effects after CO exposure. At P3, rat pup cochlea from group A showed a normal organization of the organ of Corti. There was no morphological deterioration, or loss of inner or outer hair cells. At P20, animals from group A and B showed vacuolization on the afferent terminals at the basal portion of the cochlea. We found synapsin-1 immunoreactivity (IR) to be decreased in efferent nerve terminals in CO-exposed pups at P3. From P12 to P20, synapsin-1-IR is low in efferent terminals. At P20, type I spiral ganglia neurons and afferent nerve fibers showed decreased neurofilament-IR in CO-exposed groups when compared with controls. Heme oxygenase-1 and superoxide dismutase-1-IR were elevated in the stria vascularis and blood vessels from CO-exposed rat pups at P12 and P20 in group B; in contrast group A showed a comparable expression to controls. Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and nitrotyrosine-IR were increased in blood vessels of the cochlea in CO-exposed groups, from P3 to P20. iNOS up-regulation and the presence of nitrotyrosine in blood vessels of the cochlea indicated that CO exposure activates the production of nitric oxide via increased iNOS activity. Prenatal chronic CO exposure promotes oxidative stress in the cochlea blood vessels that in turn is reflected in damage to spiral ganglia neurons and inner hair cells, suggesting for the first time that prenatal exposure to CO at concentrations expected in poorly ventilated environments impairs the development of the inner ear.

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