Gastric type H+,K+-ATPase in the cochlear lateral wall is critically involved in formation of the endocochlear potential.
Cochlear endolymph has a highly positive potential of approximately +80 mV known as the endocochlear potential (EP). The EP is essential for hearing and is maintained by K(+) circulation from perilymph to endolymph through the cochlear lateral wall. Various K(+) transport apparatuses such as the Na(+),K(+)-ATPase, the Na(+)-K(+)-2Cl(-) cotransporter, and the K(+) channels Kir4.1 and KCNQ1/KCNE1 are expressed in the lateral wall and are known to play indispensable roles in cochlear K(+) circulation. The gastric type of the H(+),K(+)-ATPase was also shown to be expressed in the cochlear lateral wall (Lecain E, Robert JC, Thomas A, and Tran Ba Huy P. Hear Res 149: 147-154, 2000), but its functional role has not been well studied. In this study we examined the precise localization of H(+),K(+)-ATPase in the cochlea and its involvement in formation of EP. RT-PCR analysis showed that the cochlea expressed mRNAs of gastric alpha(1)-, but not colonic alpha(2)-, and beta-subunits of H(+),K(+)-ATPase. Immunolabeling of an antibody specific to the alpha(1) subunit was detected in type II, IV, and V fibrocytes distributed in the spiral ligament of the lateral wall and in the spiral limbus. Strong immunoreactivity was also found in the stria vascularis. Immunoelectron microscopic examination exhibited that the H(+),K(+)-ATPase was localized exclusively at the basolateral site of strial marginal cells. Application of Sch-28080, a specific inhibitor of gastric H(+),K(+)-ATPase, to the spiral ligament as well as to the stria vascularis caused prominent reduction of EP. These results may imply that the H(+),K(+)-ATPase in the cochlear lateral wall is crucial for K(+) circulation and thus plays a critical role in generation of EP.