Archives of oto-rhino-laryngology

, Volume 246, Issue 6, pp 417–422

A subpopulation of outer hair cells possessing GABA receptors with tonotopic organization

  • P. K. Plinkert
  • H. Möhler
  • H. P. Zenner
Original Investigations

DOI: 10.1007/BF00464301

Cite this article as:
Plinkert, P.K., Möhler, H. & Zenner, H.P. Arch Otorhinolaryngol (1989) 246: 417. doi:10.1007/BF00464301


The olivocochlear innervation has been postulated to regulate active mechanical processes in the mammalian cochlea. Histochemical studies led to the suggestion that a subpopulation of these efferent nerves, which predominantly terminate on outer hair cells (OHCs), are γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic. By means of two monoclonal antibodies, we were able to visualize GABAA-receptor immunoreactivity at the basal pole of isolated sensory cells. Both subunits of the GABAA receptor, the α- and β-subunit, are known to form the transmembraneous GABA/ benzodiazepine-receptor complex and were present on OHCs. In addition, these inhibitory receptors were more numerous in the apical turns of the cochlea, indicating another criterion for distinguishing the apical from basal turns of the cochlea. These results support the concept that a subpopulation of axosomatic synapses at the basal pole of OHCs liberate the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA into the synaptic cleft. Binding of the transmitter to these newly observed subsynaptic receptors is possibly followed by a change in OHC motility and a subsequent modulation of the movement of the basilar membrane.

Key words

Hearing loss Cochlea Outer hair cells GABA receptors 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. K. Plinkert
    • 1
  • H. Möhler
    • 2
  • H. P. Zenner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of OtolaryngologyUniversity of TübingenTübingenFederal Republic of Germany
  2. 2.Institute of PharmacologyUniversity of ZürichZürichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Universitäts-HNO-KlinikTübingenFederal Republic of Germany

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