Cochleovestibular gene transfer in neonatal mice by canalostomy
Impairments of the inner ear result in sensorineural hearing loss and vestibular dysfunction in humans. A large proportion of these disorders are congenital, and involve both auditory and vestibular systems. Therefore, genetic interventions to correct deficits must be administered during early developmental stages. In this study, we evaluated inner ear gene transfer in neonatal mice by canalostomy using an adeno-associated virus serotype 8 (AAV8) vector. AAV8 with the green fluorescence protein (GFP) gene was inoculated into the inner ear of the neonatal mice through the posterior semicircular canal (canalostomy). At 30 days following surgery, animals were subjected to swim tests and auditory brainstem response measurements. Then, the animals were euthanized and temporal bones were harvested for whole-mount preparation. GFP expression and morphological changes in the inner ear were assessed by immunohistochemistry. After surgery, no signs of vestibular dysfunction were found, and there were no significant differences in the auditory brainstem response threshold between AAV8-inoculated ears and nonsurgery ears. In the surgery ears, extensive GFP expression and no morphological lesions were detected in the cochlear and vestibular end organs. Robust GFP expression was found in inner hair cells, marginal cells, vestibular hair cells, and vestibular supporting cells. In conclusion, AAV8 inoculation through canalostomy into the inner ears of neonatal mice led to extensive overexpression of exogenous genes in the inner ear without affecting hearing or vestibular function. It serves as a promising approach for gene therapy of congenital cochleovestibular diseases.