Distribution of the Na,K-ATPase α subunit in the rat spiral ganglion and organ of corti

Will J. McLean, K. Anne Smith, Elisabeth Glowatzki, Sonja J. Pyott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Processing of sound in the cochlea involves both afferent and efferent innervation. The Na,K-ATPase (NKA) is essential for cells that maintain hyperpolarized membrane potentials and sodium and potassium concentration gradients. Heterogeneity of NKA subunit expression is one mechanism that tailors physiology to particular cellular demands. Therefore, to provide insight into molecular differences that distinguish the various innervation pathways in the cochlea, we performed a variety of double labeling experiments with antibodies against three of the α isoforms of the NKA (NKAα1-3) and markers identifying particular subsets of neurons or supporting cells in whole mount preparations of the organ of Corti and spiral ganglion. We found that the NKAα3 is abundantly expressed within the membranes of the spiral ganglion somata, the type I afferent terminals contacting the inner hair cells, and the medial efferent terminals contacting the outer hair cells. We also found expression of the NKAα1 in the supporting cells that neighbor the inner hair cells and express the glutamate transporter GLAST. These findings suggest that both the NKAα1 and NKAα3 are poised to play an essential role in the regulation of the type I afferent synapses, the medial efferent synapses, and also glutamate transport from the afferent-inner hair cell synapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-49
Number of pages13
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Afferent
  • Auditory nerve
  • Efferent
  • Hair cell
  • Hearing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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