The cochlea is innervated by type I and type II afferent neurons. Type I afferents are myelinated, larger diameter neurons that send a single dendrite to contact a single inner hair cell, whereas unmyelinated type II afferents are fewer in number and receive input from many outer hair cells. This strikingly differentiated innervation pattern strongly suggests specialized functions. Those functions could be investigated with specific genetic markers that enable labeling and manipulating each afferent class without significantly affecting the other. Here three mouse models were characterized and tested for specific labeling of either type I or type II cochlear afferents. Nos1 CreER mice showed selective labeling of type I afferent fibers, Slc6a4-GFP mice labeled type II fibers with a slight preference for the apical cochlea, and Drd2-Cre mice selectively labeled type II afferent neurons nearer the cochlear base. In conjunction with the Th 2A-CreER and CGRPα-EGFP lines described previously for labeling type II fibers, the mouse lines reported here comprise a promising toolkit for genetic manipulations of type I and type II cochlear afferent fibers.
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