Protection of cochlear synapses from noise-induced excitotoxic trauma by blockade of Ca2+-permeable AMPA receptors

Ning Hu, Mark A. Rutherford, Steven H. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Exposure to loud sound damages the postsynaptic terminals of spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) on cochlear inner hair cells (IHCs), resulting in loss of synapses, a process termed synaptopathy. Glutamatergic neurotransmission via α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA)-type receptors is required for synaptopathy, and here we identify a possible involvement of GluA2-lacking Ca2+-permeable AMPA receptors (CP-AMPARs) using IEM-1460, which has been shown to block GluA2-lacking AMPARs. In CBA/CaJ mice, a 2-h exposure to 100-dB sound pressure level octave band (8 to 16 kHz) noise results in no permanent threshold shift but does cause significant synaptopathy and a reduction in auditory brainstem response (ABR) wave-I amplitude. Chronic intracochlear perfusion of IEM-1460 in artificial perilymph (AP) into adult CBA/CaJ mice prevented the decrease in ABR wave-I amplitude and the synaptopathy relative to intracochlear perfusion of AP alone. Interestingly, IEM-1460 itself did not affect the ABR threshold, presumably because GluA2-containing AMPARs can sustain sufficient synaptic transmission to evoke low-threshold responses during blockade of GluA2-lacking AMPARs. On individual postsynaptic densities, we observed GluA2-lacking nanodomains alongside regions with robust GluA2 expression, consistent with the idea that individual synapses have both CP-AMPARs and Ca2+-impermeable AMPARs. SGNs innervating the same IHC differ in their relative vulnerability to noise. We found local heterogeneity among synapses in the relative abundance of GluA2 subunits that may underlie such differences in vulnerability. We propose a role for GluA2-lacking CP-AMPARs in noise-induced cochlear synaptopathy whereby differences among synapses account for differences in excitotoxic susceptibility. These data suggest a means of maintaining normal hearing thresholds while protecting against noise-induced synaptopathy, via selective blockade of CP-AMPARs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3828-3838
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 18 2020


  • Ca2-permeable AMPA receptor
  • Cochlear synapse
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Noise-induced synaptopathy
  • Spiral ganglion neuron


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