Cisplatin is an effective anticancer agent, but also causes permanent hearing loss by damaging hair cells—the sensory receptors essential for hearing. There is an urgent clinical need to protect cochlear hair cells in patients undergoing cisplatin chemotherapy. The zebrafish lateral line organ contains hair cells and has been frequently used in studies to screen for otoprotective compounds. However, these studies have employed a wide range of cisplatin dosages and exposure times. We therefore performed a comprehensive evaluation of cisplatin ototoxicity in the zebrafish lateral line with the goal of producing a standardized, clinically relevant protocol for future studies. To define the dose- and time-response patterns of cisplatin-induced hair-cell death, we treated 6-day-old larvae for 2 h in 50 µM–1 mM cisplatin and allowed them to recover. We observed delayed hair cell death, which peaked at 4–8 h post-exposure. Cisplatin also activated a robust inflammatory response, as determined by macrophage recruitment and phagocytosis of hair cells. However, selective depletion of macrophages did not affect hair cell loss. We also examined the effect of cisplatin treatment on fish behavior and found that cisplatin-induced lateral line injury measurably impaired rheotaxis. Finally, we examined the function of remaining hair cells that appeared resistant to cisplatin treatment. We observed significantly reduced uptake of the cationic dye FM1-43 in these cells relative to untreated controls, indicating that surviving hair cells may be functionally impaired. Cumulatively, these results indicate that relatively brief exposures to cisplatin can produce hair cell damage and delayed hair cell death. Our observations provide guidance on standardizing methods for the use of the zebrafish model in studies of cisplatin ototoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14302
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • cisplatin
  • lateral line organ
  • macrophage
  • ototoxicity
  • rheotaxis
  • zebrafish


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