Muscarinic receptor subtypes are differentially distributed in the rat cochlea

K. M. Khan, M. J. Drescher, J. S. Hatfield, A. M. Khan, D. G. Drescher

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28 Citations (Scopus)


Five different genes encode the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors. The muscarinic receptor subtypes M1, M3, and M5 are typically coupled to activation of the Gαq/11-phosphatidyl inositol pathway, whereas the M2 and M4 subtypes are typically linked to Gαi and adenylyl cyclase inhibition. In order to localize muscarinic receptors in the rat cochlea, we applied polyclonal antibodies for subtypes M1, M2, M3, and M5, and monoclonal antibody for subtype M4 to paraffin sections. In the organ of Corti, outer hair cells exhibited strong immunoreactivity for M3 and weak immunoreactivity for M1. Deiters' cells were strongly immunoreactive to antibodies for the M1 and M2 subtypes, with weak staining observed for M3, and weaker yet for M5. Inner hair cells showed moderate immunoreactivity for the M1 subtype, weaker staining for the M5 subtype, and slight staining for the M3 subtype. Among the spiral ganglion neurons, weak to moderate immunoreactivity was detected for M3 and M5 subtypes and weak staining was observed for the M1 subtype. The efferent fibers of the intraganglionic spiral bundle were positive for M2 and M5. In the lateral wall, weak to moderate staining was detected for M5 in the stria vascularis corresponding in position to the basolateral extensions of marginal cells. Staining for M3 was observed associated with capillaries. Fibrocytes of the spiral ligament exhibited limited but selective subtype immunoreactivity. No immunoreactivity was detected in the cochlea for the M4 subtype. From the present findings we suggest that M3 is the primary muscarinic receptor subtype in outer hair cells mediating a postsynaptic response to the medial olivocochlear cholinergic efferent input. The muscarinic receptor subtypes M1, M3, and M5 appear to subserve the action of cholinergic lateral olivocochlear efferent stimulation on postsynaptic responses in type I afferents. Whether M1, M3, and M5 protein in inner hair cells indicates constitutive or vestigial expression remaining from development is unknown. M2 and M5 muscarinic receptors expressed presynaptically may modulate the efferent signal. Finally, expression by Deiters' cells of several muscarinic subtypes raises the possibility that cholinergic efferents couple to these non-sensory cells through muscarinic receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-302
Number of pages12
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2002


  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Organ of Corti
  • Spiral ganglion
  • Spiral ligament
  • Stria vascularis


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