Acrylonitrile potentiates hearing loss and cochlear damage induced by moderate noise exposure in rats

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The diversity of chemical and drugs that can potentiate noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) has impeded efforts to predict such interactions. We have hypothesized that chemical contaminants that disrupt intrinsic antioxidant defenses hold significant risk for potentiating NIHL. If this is true, then acrylonitrile (ACN) would be expected to potentiate NIHL. ACN, one of the 50 most commonly used chemicals in the United States, is metabolized via two pathways that are likely to disrupt intrinsic reactive oxygen species (ROS) buffering systems: (1) it conjugates glutathione, depleting this important antioxidant rapidly; (2) a second pathway involves the formation of cyanide, which can inhibit superoxide dismutase. We hypothesized that moderate noise exposure, that does not produce permanent hearing loss by itself, could initiate oxidative stress and that ACN could render the inner ear more sensitive to noise by disrupting intrinsic antioxidant defenses. Temporary and persistent effects of ACN alone (50 mg/kg, sc 5 days), noise alone (95 or 97 dB octave band noise, 4 h/day for 5 days), or ACN in combination with noise were determined using distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) and compound action potential (CAP) amplitudes. Histopathological damage to hair cells resulting from these treatments was also investigated using surface preparations of the organ of Corti. Individually, neither ACN nor noise exposures caused any permanent hearing or hair cell loss; only a reversible temporary threshold shift was measured in noise-exposed animals. However, when given in combination, ACN and noise induced permanent threshold shifts (13–16 dB between 7 and 40 kHz) and a decrease in DPOAE amplitudes (up to 25 dB at 19 kHz), as well as significant outer hair cell (OHC) loss (up to 20% in the first row between 13 and 47 kHz). This investigation demonstrates that ACN can potentiate NIHL at noise levels that are realistic in terms of human exposure, and that the OHCs are the main target of toxicity. While the exact mechanism is unknown, the results are consistent with the hypothesis of ROS involvement in NIHL at moderate levels.

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