Caspase inhibitor facilitates recovery of hearing by protecting the cochlear lateral wall from acute cochlear mitochondrial dysfunction

Kunio Mizutari, Tatsuo Matsunaga, Kazusaku Kamiya, Yoshiaki Fujinami, Masato Fujii, Kaoru Ogawa

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21 Citations (Scopus)


We recently showed that acute energy failure in the rat cochlea induced by local administration of the mitochondrial toxin 3-nitropropionic acid (3-NP) causes hearing loss mainly due to degeneration of cochlear lateral-wall fibrocytes. In the present study, we analyzed the effect of the pan-caspase inhibitor z-Val-Ala-Asp(Ome)-fluoromethylketone (Z-VAD-FMK) on 3-NP-induced hearing loss in a model showing temporary threshold shifts at low frequencies and permanent threshold shifts at high frequencies. The model rats received an intraperitoneal injection of either Z-VAD-FMK or vehicle for 3 days starting 1 day prior to 3-NP treatment. One day after the administration of 3-NP, the auditory brain-stem response (ABR) threshold at 20 kHz was elevated to 70 dB in the Z-VAD-FMK group and to 85 dB in controls. The Z-VAD-FMK group completely recovered to the preoperative level within 14 days, whereas in the controls, the ABR threshold remained elevated at 50 dB even 28 days after the administration of 3-NP. Treatment with Z-VAD-FMK also improved recovery of hearing at 8 kHz but did not change recovery at 40 kHz. Histological examination demonstrated that treatment with Z-VAD-FMK inhibited progressive degeneration of the lateral-wall fibrocytes in the cochlear basal turn, as well as apoptosis of these fibrocytes. These results clearly indicate that caspase-dependent apoptosis of fibrocytes in the cochlear lateral wall plays an important role in hearing loss in the present animal model. Moreover, the results of the present study suggest that systemic administration of a caspase inhibitor may be an effective therapy for sensorineural hearing loss caused by acute energy failure such as that observed in cochlear ischemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-222
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of neuroscience research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Jan
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Caspase
  • Hearing loss
  • Lateral wall of cochlea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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