Lipopolysaccharide-induced middle ear inflammation disrupts the cochlear intra-strial fluid-blood barrier through down-regulation of tight junction proteins

Jinhui Zhang, Songlin Chen, Zhiqiang Hou, Jing Cai, Mingmin Dong, Xiaorui Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Middle ear infection (or inflammation) is the most common pathological condition that causes fluid to accumulate in the middle ear, disrupting cochlear homeostasis. Lipopolysaccharide, a product of bacteriolysis, activates macrophages and causes release of inflammatory cytokines. Many studies have shown that lipopolysaccharides cause functional and structural changes in the inner ear similar to that of inflammation. However, it is specifically not known how lipopolysaccharides affect the blood-labyrinth barrier in the stria vascularis (intra-strial fluid-blood barrier), nor what the underlying mechanisms are. In this study, we used a cell culture-based in vitro model and animal-based in vivo model, combined with immunohistochemistry and a vascular leakage assay, to investigate lipopolysaccharide effects on the integrity of the mouse intra-strial fluid-blood barrier. Our results show lipopolysaccharideinduced local infection significantly affects intra-strial fluid-blood barrier component cells. Pericytes and perivascular-resident macrophage-like melanocytes are particularly affected, and the morphological and functional changes in these cells are accompanied by substantial changes in barrier integrity. Significant vascular leakage is found in the lipopolysaccharide treated-animals. Consistent with the findings from the in vivo animal model, the permeability of the endothelial cell monolayer to FITC-albumin was significantly higher in the lipopolysaccharide-treated monolayer than in an untreated endothelial cell monolayer. Further study has shown the lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation to have a major effect on the expression of tight junctions in the blood barrier. Lipopolysaccharide was also shown to cause high frequency hearing loss, corroborated by previous reports from other laboratories. Our findings show lipopolysaccharide-evoked middle ear infection disrupts inner ear fluid balance, and its particular effects on the intra-strial fluid-blood barrier, essential for cochlear homeostasis. The barrier is degraded as the expression of tight junction-associated proteins such as zona occludens 1, occludin, and vascular endothelial cadherin are down-regulated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0122572
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 27 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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