The two most abundant proteins of the organ of Corti, OCP1 and OCP2, are acidic, cytosolic, low molecular weight proteins diffusely distributed within the cytoplasm of supporting cells. A recent study by Henzl et al. (2001) found first, that these two proteins co-localize with connexin 26 along the epithelial gap junction system and second, that OCP2 could participate with OCP1 in an organ of Corti-specific SCF complex (Skp1, cul1in, and Fbp), a ubiquitin ligase complex. Previous study has also implicated OCP2 in the recycling and regulation of intracellular K+ efflux as well as pH homeostatic mechanisms. In the present study, we document the emergence and distribution features of OCP2 through various stages (weeks 11-28) of gestation in human fetal cochleae. Four fetal cochleae, the cochleae of a normal hearing human adult and a mature rat for positive control were fixed in 4% formalin within 2 h post mortem. Immunohistochemical studies were performed using a rabbit polyclonal antibody raised against a synthetic peptide corresponding to amino acids 3-16. Specimens were mounted in paraffin sections. Results show that OCP2 immunoreactivity is evident at a prenatal age of 11 weeks, peaks in expression at the onset of cochlear function at 20 weeks and achieves adult-like patterns of distribution just prior to histological maturation at 28 weeks. Though this protein could be associated with the development, maturation, and electrochemical maintenance of the cochlear gap junction system, the nature of this protein's function in the developing and mature human cochlea remains unclear.
- Epithelial gap junction system
- Fetal cochlea