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J Neurosci Res. 2003 Dec 1;74(5):666-75.

Mild carbon monoxide exposure diminishes selectively the integrity of the cochlea of the developing rat.

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Surgery Department, Division of Head and Neck, David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Rat pups were chronically exposed to carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations (12 or 25 ppm) in air starting at day 8, through 22 days of age, to examine the changes in the peripheral auditory system. Gastrostomy-reared rat pups, with or without CO exposure, were used and compared with mother-reared pups. The organ of Corti and the neurons of the spiral ganglion were analyzed for their morphology by using immunochemical and histological techniques. The inner and outer hair cells in the organ of Corti of animals exposed to 12 and 25 ppm CO were not different from the controls. However, at 25 ppm CO exposure, the nerve terminals innervating the inner hair cells were swollen. The somata of neurons in the spiral ganglion showed mild changes in the cytoplasm, and signs of mild vacuolization were observed in myelin covering their central processes. Synaptophysin, a marker for synaptic vesicles, and choline acetyltransferase, a marker for cholinergic terminals, showed no difference in immunoreactivity in CO exposed animals at 12 and at 25 ppm when compared with their age-matched controls. Also, Na(+)K(+) ATPase immunoreactivity patterns were normal compared with controls. Three enzymes were significantly reduced at the 25 ppm CO exposure: Cytochrome oxidase, NADH-TR, and calcium ATPase were decreased in both the organ of Corti and the neurons of the spiral ganglion, and decreased immunostaining for the neurofilament and myelin basic proteins was found. We conclude that components of the cochlea are selectively affected by mild chronic CO exposure during development.

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