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Neurotoxicology. 2011 Mar;32(2):233-41. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2010.12.003. Epub 2010 Dec 21.

Manganese is toxic to spiral ganglion neurons and hair cells in vitro.

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Center for Hearing and Deafness, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA.


Occupational exposure to high atmospheric levels of Mn produces a severe and debilitating disorder known as manganism characterized by extrapyramidal disturbances similar to that seen in Parkinson's disease. Epidemiological and case studies suggest that persistent exposures to Mn may have deleterious effects on other organs including the auditory system and hearing. Mn accumulates in the inner ear following acute exposure raising the possibility that it can damage the sensory hair cells that convert sound into neural activity or spiral ganglion neurons (SGN) that transmit acoustic information from the hair cells to the brain via the auditory nerve. In this paper we demonstrate for first time that Mn causes significant damage to the sensory hair cells, peripheral auditory nerve fibers (ANF) and SGN in cochlear organotypic cultures isolated from postnatal day three rats. The peripheral ANF that make synaptic contact with the sensory hair cells were particularly vulnerable to Mn toxicity; damage occurred at concentrations as low 0.01 mM and increased with dose and duration of Mn exposure. Sensory hair cells, in contrast, were slightly more resistant to Mn toxicity than the ANF. Mn induced an atypical pattern of sensory cell damage; Mn was more toxic to inner hair cells (IHC) than outer hair cells (OHC) and in addition, IHC loss was relatively uniform along the length of the cochlea. Mn also caused significant loss and shrinkage of SGN soma. These findings are the first to demonstrate that Mn can produce severe lesions to both neurons and hair cells in the postnatal inner ear.

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