Calpain inhibitors protect auditory sensory cells from hypoxia and neurotrophin-withdrawal induced apoptosis

Alan G. Cheng, Tina Huang, Alfred Stracher, Ana Kim, Wei Liu, Brigitte Malgrange, Philippe P. Lefebvre, Abraham Schulman, Thomas R. Van De Water

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73 Scopus citations


Inhibitors of calpain have been shown to protect nerve growth factor (NGF)-deprived ciliary ganglion neurons and hypoxic cortical neurons. Calpains have been identified in the cochlea and are active during ischemic injury. Since apoptosis can be initiated by loss of neurotrophic support, hypoxia, and ototoxins (e.g., cisplatin, CDDP), the role of calpain inhibitors under these conditions was examined in auditory hair cells and neurons. Dissociated spiral ganglion neuron (SGN) cell cultures and organ of Corti explants from P3 rats were used to test the efficacy of calpain inhibitors as otoprotective molecules. Our results indicate that calpain inhibitor I, calpain inhibitor II, and leupeptin all provided significant protection of SGNs against neurotrophin-withdrawal and hypoxia-induced apoptosis. The increase in neuronal survival ranged from 2.16 to 2.31 times greater than in untreated neurotrophin-withdrawn SGN cell cultures. BOC-Asp(Ome)-Fluoromethyl Ketone (B-D-FMK), a general caspase inhibitor, increased neuronal survival 2.16 times more. Neuronal survival rates were from 1.88 to 2.27 times greater than in untreated, hypoxic neurons and hair cell survival rates were from 1.98 to 2.03 times greater than untreated, hypoxic organ of Corti explants. However, protection of auditory hair cells and neurons from CDDP-induced damage (10 and 6 μg/ml, respectively) was limited with any of these calpain inhibitors. Apoptotic pathways initiated by neurotrophin-deprivation and ototoxic stress (e.g., CDDP) have been shown to be different. Our results agree with this finding, with neurotrophin-withdrawal and hypoxia, but not CDDP damage-induced apoptosis being calpain-dependent. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-243
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Dec 11 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported by funds from the Shulsky Hearing Research Fund of the Montefiore Medical Center (TRV); Neuropathology training grant NSO7098 (AGC, TH, AK).


  • Apoptosis
  • Auditory system
  • Calpain
  • Hypoxia
  • Neurotrophin-withdrawal
  • Noise trauma


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