Date: 12 Jan 2006

An Interstitial Network of Podoplanin-Expressing Cells in the Human Endolymphatic Duct


The human endolymphatic duct (ED) with encompassing interstitial connective tissue (CT) is believed to be important for endolymph resorption and fluid pressure regulation of the inner ear. The periductal CT cells are interconnected via numerous cellular extensions, but do not form vessel structures. Here we report that the periductal CT is populated by two distinct cell phenotypes; one expressing podoplanin, a protein otherwise found on lymph endothelia and on epithelia involved in fluid fluxes, and a second expressing a fibroblast marker. A majority of the interstitial cells expressed podoplanin but not the lymphatic endothelial cell markers hyaluronan receptor (LYVE-1) or vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3 (VEGFR-3). The fibroblast marker positive cells were found close to the ED epithelium. In the mid- and distal parts of the ED, these cells were enriched under folded epithelia. Furthermore, subepithelial CT cells were found to express activated platelet derived growth factor (PDGF)-β receptors. Cultured CT cells from human inner ear periductal and perisaccular explant tissues were identified as fibroblasts. These cells compacted a three-dimensional collagen lattice by a process that could be promoted by PDGF-BB, a factor involved in interstitial fluid pressure regulation. Our results are compatible with the notion that the periductal CT cells are involved in the regulation of inner ear fluid pressure. By active compaction of the periductal CT and by the formation of villous structures, the CT cells could modulate fluid fluxes over the ED epithelium as well as the longitudinal flow of endolymph in the ED.