The distribution of actin in the lateral wall of the cochlear duct was investigated in the gerbil, rat, mouse and hamster. A monoclonal antibody specific for muscle α and γ actins, and a polyclonal antiserum reactive with smooth muscle γ and non-muscle β actins yielded strong immunostaining of basal cells in the stria vascularis and of smooth muscle cells in lateral wall blood vessels. Both cell types stained in all four genera. Diffuse cytosolic staining was observed along the full-length of the basal cell layer including the blunt cell processes which they extend toward strial marginal cells. Immunoreactive basal cells appeared continuous with morphologically similar cells investing vessels penetrating the stria from the spiral ligament. The basal cells failed to bind antibodies to smooth muscle α actin and sarcomeric actin. By electron microscopic immunocytochemistry, gold labeling for actin was observed on dense, fine fibrils in the cytoplasm of the basal cells. In paraffin sections adjacent to those stained for actin, antibody to vimentin stained intermediate and basal cells in the stria vascularis whereas antibody to isoform 1 of the facilitated glucose transporter protein family (GLUT1) labeled only the non-overlapping apical and basal plasmalemma of basal cells. Content of vimentin, GLUT1 and muscle γ actin supports the derivation of basal cells from mesoderm. The presence of stress fibers containing muscle γ actin points to a possible contractile activity of basal cells which conceivably could be related to transport of K+ to and within the intrastrial compartment or regulation of blood flow in the stria vascularis.
- Immunoelectron microscopy