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Acta Otolaryngol Suppl. 2004 Oct;(554):12-6.

Probable function of Boettcher cells based on results of morphological study: localization of nitric oxide synthase.

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Department of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery, Osaka City University Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka, Japan.


Boettcher cells lie on the basilar membrane beneath Claudius cells. The cells are considered supporting cells for the organ of Corti, and present only in the lower turn of the cochlea, which responds to high-frequency sound. Boettcher cells interdigitate with each other, and project microvilli into the intercellular space. Their structural specialization suggests that Boettcher cells may play a significant role in the function of the cochlea. Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) has previously been detected in substructures of the cochlea. In the cochlea, it is believed that nitric oxide plays an important role in neurotransmission, blood flow regulation, and induction of cytotoxicity under pathological conditions. Findings concerning detection of NOS on Boettcher cells are rare. We demonstrated here the localization of NOS on Boettcher cells of the rat by immunohistochemistry using polyclonal antibody to NOS. On observation with the light microscope using DAB staining, positive immunostaining to NOS was observed in Boettcher cells. In immunoelectron micrographs, NOS was detected abundantly in the cytoplasm of the interdigitations. This suggests that the interdigitations may play significant roles by using NOS. It follows from this that the nitric oxide (NO) on Boettcher cells may influences neighboring Boettcher cells. The ultrastructure of Boettcher cells suggests that they may be active cells, which perform both secretory and absorptive functions.

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