The bone encasing the inner ear, known as the otic capsule, is unique because it remodels little postnatally compared to other bones in the body. Previous studies established that osteoprotegerin (OPG) in the inner ear inhibits otic capsule remodeling. OPG acts as a decoy receptor of receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand (RANKL) to disrupt the interaction between RANKL and RANK, the primary regulators of bone metabolism. Here we studied the expression and function of RANK and RANKL in the murine cochlea. Using a combination of in situ hybridization, real-time quantitative RT-PCR, and western blot, we demonstrate that Rankl and Rank genes and their protein products are expressed in the intracochlear soft tissues and the otic capsule in a developmentally regulated manner. Using a culture of neonatal murine cochlear neurons, we show that the interaction between RANK and RANKL inhibits neurite outgrowth in these neurons, and is associated with upregulation of NOGO-A expression. Taken together, our results suggest that, in addition to regulating otic capsule bone remodeling, RANK and RANKL expressed by intracochlear soft tissues may also regulate spiral ganglion neuron function by affecting neurite outgrowth.
Cochlea; Spiral ganglion cells; RANK; RANKL; OPG