Date: 13 Jul 2000

Characterization of Damage and Regeneration in Cultured Avian Utricles


Hair cell regeneration occurs spontaneously throughout life and following hair cell injury in the vestibular epithelia of mature birds and other nonmammalian vertebrates. We examined hair cell regeneration in post-hatch chick utricles that were cultured in media with or without the ototoxin, streptomycin, for various periods. The goal of our study was to characterize the dose- and time-dependent effects of streptomycin on hair cell loss and regeneration in vitro. Utricles that were cultured with streptomycin for 1 day displayed a dose-dependent loss of hair cells in spatial patterns and levels that were consistent with those observed in comparable experimental paradigms in vivo. Incorporation of the nucleotide analog bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) demonstrated that supporting cell proliferation is decreased during the first day of culture in the presence of streptomycin, but it increases over time when cultures are subsequently placed in streptomycin-free media. Utricles cultured for 1 day with streptomycin followed by 2–4 more days without streptomycin had numerous bundles of immature stereocilia, suggesting that new hair cells were generated in vitro. We tested this hypothesis by culturing utricles with BrdU for 3 or 5 days and double-labeling them to detect BrdU and the hair cell-specific antigen, TuJ1. Numerous BrdU-positive/TuJ1-positive cells with phenotypic characteristics of immature hair cells were present in the cultures, and the number of such cells increased between 3 and 5 days in vitro, in a dose-dependent manner.