A number of previous studies have suggested that melanin may play a role in Ca2+ homeostasis of endolymph. In the present study, endolymph Ca2+ levels and endocochlear potential (EP) were measured in all four cochlear turns of pigmented or albino guinea pigs. Auditory sensitivity was also evaluated using cochlear action potential (ALP) thresholds. In pigmented animals we found that endolymph Ca2+ tended to increase from base to apex of the cochlea, while EP systematically decreased towards the apex. In contrast, no significant Ca2+ gradient was found in albinos and the EP decline was far less. As a result, the apical turn of albino animals had significantly lower Ca2+ and significantly higher EP than in pigmented animals. AP thresholds pooled across all test frequencies were significantly lower in albino animals although no differences at individual frequencies reached significance. Even after correction for EP differences, the endolymph Ca2+ levels in albino animals were significantly lower than in pigmented ones. These results confirm that there are significant physiologic differences between pigmented and albino animals, which are a likely consequence of the absence of melanin in the albino cochlea. They are consistent with the involvement of melanin in the active transport of Ca2+ into endolymph.
- Endocochlear potential