Differential fates of tissue macrophages in the cochlea during postnatal development

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The cochlea contains macrophages. These cells participate in inflammatory responses to cochlear pathogenesis. However, it is not clear how and when these cells populate the cochlea during postnatal development. The current study aims to determine the postnatal development of cochlear macrophages with the focus on macrophage development in the organ of Corti and the basilar membrane. Cochleae were collected from C57BL/6J mice at ages of postnatal day (P) 1 to P21, as well as from mature mice (1–4 months). Macrophages were identified based on their expression of F4/80 and Iba1, as well as their unique morphologies. Two sets of macrophages were identified in the regions of the organ of Corti and the basilar membrane. One set resides on the scala tympani side of the basilar membrane. These cells have a round shape at P1 and start to undergo site-specific differentiation at P4. Apical macrophages adopt a dendritic shape. Middle and basal macrophages take on an irregular shape with short projections. Basal macrophages further differentiate into an amoeboid shape. The other set of macrophages resides above the basilar membrane, either beneath the cells of the organ of Corti or along the spiral vessel of the basilar membrane. As the sensory epithelium matures, these cells undergo developmental death with the phenotypes of apoptosis. Macrophages are also identified in the spiral ligament, spiral limbus, and neural regions. Their numbers decrease during postnatal development. Together, these results suggest a dynamic rearrangement of the macrophage population during postnatal cochlear development.HIGHLIGHTSPostnatal basilar membrane and organ of Corti contains distinct macrophage populations.Organ of Corti-macrophages undergo developmental death with the maturation of the sensory epithelium.Basilar membrane macrophages differentiate in a site-dependent manner.Macrophage number decreases in multiple cochlear regions with the maturation of the cochlea.

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