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PLOS ONE  2012 

MYC Gene Delivery to Adult Mouse Utricles Stimulates Proliferation of Postmitotic Supporting Cells In Vitro

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048704

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The inner ears of adult humans and other mammals possess a limited capacity for regenerating sensory hair cells, which can lead to permanent auditory and vestibular deficits. During development and regeneration, undifferentiated supporting cells within inner ear sensory epithelia can self-renew and give rise to new hair cells; however, these otic progenitors become depleted postnatally. Therefore, reprogramming differentiated supporting cells into otic progenitors is a potential strategy for restoring regenerative potential to the ear. Transient expression of the induced pluripotency transcription factors, Oct3/4, Klf4, Sox2, and c-Myc reprograms fibroblasts into neural progenitors under neural-promoting culture conditions, so as a first step, we explored whether ectopic expression of these factors can reverse supporting cell quiescence in whole organ cultures of adult mouse utricles. Co-infection of utricles with adenoviral vectors separately encoding Oct3/4, Klf4, Sox2, and the degradation-resistant T58A mutant of c-Myc (c-MycT58A) triggered significant levels of supporting cell S-phase entry as assessed by continuous BrdU labeling. Of the four factors, c-MycT58A alone was both necessary and sufficient for the proliferative response. The number of BrdU-labeled cells plateaued between 5–7 days after infection, and then decreased ~60% by 3 weeks, as many cycling cells appeared to enter apoptosis. Switching to differentiation-promoting culture medium at 5 days after ectopic expression of c-MycT58A temporarily attenuated the loss of BrdU-labeled cells and accompanied a very modest but significant expansion of the sensory epithelium. A small number of the proliferating cells in these cultures labeled for the hair cell marker, myosin VIIA, suggesting they had begun differentiating towards a hair cell fate. The results indicate that ectopic expression of c-MycT58A in combination with methods for promoting cell survival and differentiation may restore regenerative potential to supporting cells within the adult mammalian inner ear.


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