Autophagy precedes apoptosis during degeneration of the Kölliker’s organ in the development of rat cochlea
The Kölliker’s organ is a transient epithelial structure during cochlea development that gradually degenerates and disappears at postnatal 12-14 days (P12-14). While apoptosis has been shown to play an essential role in the degeneration of the Kölliker’s organ, the role of another programmed cell death, autophagy, remains unclear. In our study, autophagy markers including microtubule associated protein light chain 3-II (LC3-II), sequestosome 1 (SQSTM1/p62) and Beclin1 were detected in the supporting cells of the Kölliker’s organ through immunohistochemistry staining. In addition, Western blot and real-time PCR revealed a gradually decreased expression of LC3-II and an increased expression of p62 during early postnatal development. Compared to apoptosis markers that peaks between P7 and P10, autophagy flux peaked earlier at P1 and decreased from P1 to P14. By transmission electron microscopy, we observed representative autophagosome and autolysosome that packaged various organelles in the supporting cells of the Kölliker’s organ. During the degeneration, these organelles were digested via autophagy well ahead of the cellular apoptosis. These results suggest that autophagy plays an important role in transition and degeneration of the Kölliker’s organ prior to apoptosis during the early postnatal development.
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