Pericyte abnormalities precede strial capillary basement membrane thickening in Alport mice

Brianna Dufek, Daniel T. Meehan, Duane Delimont, Gina Samuelson, Jacob Madison, Xiourui Shi, Flint Boettcher, Vincent Trosky, Michael Anne Gratton, Dominic Cosgrove

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In 129 Sv autosomal Alport mice, the strial capillary basement membranes (SCBMs) progressively thicken between 5 and 9 weeks of age resulting in a hypoxic microenvironment with metabolic stress and induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. These events occur concomitant with a drop in endocochlear potential and a susceptibility to noise-induced hearing loss under conditions that do not permanently affect age/strain-matched littermates. Here we aimed to gain an understanding of events that occur before the onset of SCBM thickening. Alport stria has normal thickness and shows levels of extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules in the SCBMs commensurate with wild-type mice. Hearing thresholds in the 3-week Alport mice do not differ from those of wild-type mice. We performed RNAseq analysis using RNA from stria vascularis isolated from 3-week Alport mice and wild type littermates. Data was processed using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis software and further distilled using manual procedures. RNAseq analysis revealed significant dysregulation of genes involved in cell adhesion, cell migration, formation of protrusions, and both actin and tubulin cytoskeletal dynamics. Overall, the data suggested changes in the cellular architecture of the stria might be apparent. To test this notion, we performed dual immunofluorescence analysis on whole mounts of the stria vascularis from these same animals stained with anti-isolectin gs-ib4 (endothelial cell marker) and anti-desmin (pericyte marker) antibodies. The results showed evidence of pericyte detachment and migration as well as the formation of membrane ruffling on pericytes in z-stacked confocal images from Alport mice compared to wild type littermates. This was confirmed by TEM analysis. Earlier work from our lab showed that endothelin A receptor blockade prevents SCBM thickening and ECM accumulation in the SCBMs. Treating cultured pericytes with endothelin-1 induced actin cytoskeletal rearrangement, increasing the ratio of filamentous to globular actin. Collectively, these findings suggest that the change in type IV collagen composition in the Alport SCBMs results in cellular insult to the pericyte compartment, activating detachment and altered cytoskeletal dynamics. These events precede SCBM thickening and hearing loss in Alport mice, and thus constitute the earliest event so far recognized in Alport strial pathology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107935
JournalHearing research
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Alport syndrome
  • Pericyte
  • RNA-seq
  • Strial capillary basement membrane

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    Dufek, B., Meehan, D. T., Delimont, D., Samuelson, G., Madison, J., Shi, X., Boettcher, F., Trosky, V., Gratton, M. A., & Cosgrove, D. (2020). Pericyte abnormalities precede strial capillary basement membrane thickening in Alport mice. Hearing research, 390, [107935].