Bone marrow (BM)-derived stem cells have shown plasticity with a capacity to differentiate into a variety of specialized cells. To test the hypothesis that some cells in the inner ear are derived from BM, we transplanted either isolated whole BM cells or clonally expanded hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) prepared from transgenic mice expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) into irradiated adult mice. Isolated GFP+ BM cells were also transplanted into conditioned newborn mice derived from pregnant mice injected with busulfan (which ablates HSCs in the newborns). Quantification of GFP + cells was performed 3-20 months after transplant. GFP+ cells were found in the inner ear with all transplant conditions. They were most abundant within the spiral ligament but were also found in other locations normally occupied by fibrocytes and mesenchymal cells. No GFP+ neurons or hair cells were observed in inner ears of transplanted mice. Dual immunofluorescence assays demonstrated that most of the GFP+ cells were negative for CD45, a macrophage and hematopoietic cell marker. A portion of the GFP+ cells in the spiral ligament expressed immunoreactive Na, K-ATPase, or the Na-K-Cl transporter (NKCC), proteins used as markers for specialized ion transport fibrocytes. Phenotypic studies indicated that the GFP+ cells did not arise from fusion of donor cells with endogenous cells. This study provides the first evidence for the origin of inner ear cells from BM and more specifically from HSCs. The results suggest that mesenchymal cells, including fibrocytes in the adult inner ear, may be derived continuously from HSCs.
- Spiral ligament
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