Neuronal Fibers and Neurotransmitter Receptor Expression in the Human Endolymphatic Sac

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Abstract

Introduction:

Recent studies suggest that the human endolymphatic sac (ES) may have multiple functions, including an ion-transport capacity comparable to the kidney, an immunological capacity and a possible natriuretic capacity. Further, there have been speculations of a yet undefined role in intracranial pressure homeostasis. The anatomical location towards the sigmoid sinus would suggest a possible endo- and/or paracrine signaling. However, neuronal connections may also apply, but it remains very scarcely explored in the human ES.

Study Design:

DNA micro-arrays and immunohistochemistry were used for analyses of fresh human ES tissue samples.

Methods:

A total of 30 tissue samples from the human ES were obtained during translabyrinthine surgery for vestibular schwannoma. Microarray technology was used to investigate tissue sample gene expression, using adjacent dura mater as control. The expression of genes specific for neuronal signaling was determined and results for selected key molecules verified by immunohistochemistry. Transmission electron microscopy was used for ultrastructural analysis.

Results:

For the transmission electron microscopy analysis, a direct innervation of the ES was observed with unmyelinated fibers imbedded in the ES epithelial lining. The microarrays confirmed, that several molecules involved in neuronal signaling were found expressed significantly in the ES DNA profile, such as the Cholecystokinin peptide and related receptors, Dopamine receptors 2 and 5, vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2), plasma monoamine transporter (PMAT), and Serotonin 1D. All peptides were verified by immunohistochemistry.

Conclusions:

Based on global gene expression profiling and immuno-histochemical labeling, we conclude that the human ES expresses neuropeptide receptors and monoamine transporters. Combined with the ultrastructural demonstration of unmyelinated axons imbedded within the epithelial lining, the findings suggest that neuro-signaling mechanisms are involved in functions exerted by the ES.

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