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Brain Res. 2009 Feb 9;1253:27-34. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2008.11.070. Epub 2008 Dec 3.

Age-related hearing loss: aquaporin 4 gene expression changes in the mouse cochlea and auditory midbrain.

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  • 1Otolaryngology Department, University of Rochester Medical School, Rochester, NY 14642-8629, USA.


Presbycusis -- age-related hearing loss, is the number one communication disorder, and one of the top three chronic medical conditions of our aged population. Aquaporins, particularly aquaporin 4 (Aqp4), are membrane proteins with important roles in water and ion flux across cell membranes, including cells of the inner ear and pathways of the brain used for hearing. To more fully understand the biological bases of presbycusis, 39 CBA mice, a well-studied animal model of presbycusis, underwent non-invasive hearing testing as a function of sound frequency (auditory brainstem response -- ABR thresholds, and distortion-product otoacoustic emission -- DPOAE magnitudes), and were clustered into four groups based on age and hearing ability. Aqp4 gene expression, as determined by genechip microarray analysis and quantitative real-time PCR, was compared to the young adult control group in the three older groups: middle aged with good hearing, old age with mild presbycusis, and old age with severe presbycusis. Linear regression and ANOVA showed statistically significant changes in Aqp4 gene expression and ABR and DPOAE hearing status in the cochlea and auditory midbrain -- inferior colliculus. Down-regulation in the cochlea was seen, and an initial down-, then up-regulation was discovered for the inferior colliculus Aqp4 expression. It is theorized that these changes in Aqp4 gene expression represent an age-related disruption of ion flux in the fluids of the cochlea that are responsible for ionic gradients underlying sound transduction in cochlear hair cells necessary for hearing. In regard to central auditory processing at the level of the auditory midbrain, aquaporin gene expression changes may affect neurotransmitter cycling involving supporting cells, thus impairing complex sound neural processing with age.

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