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Nitric oxide (NO) activates the NO-sensitive soluble guanylate cyclase (NO-GC, sGC) and triggers intracellular signaling pathways involving cGMP. For survival of cochlear hair cells and preservation of hearing, NO-mediated cascades have both protective and detrimental potential. Here we examine the cochlear function of mice lacking one of the two NO-sensitive guanylate cyclase isoforms [NO-GC1 knockout (KO) or NO-GC2 KO]. The deletion of NO-GC1 or NO-GC2 did not influence electromechanical outer hair cell (OHC) properties, as measured by distortion product otoacoustic emissions, neither before nor after noise exposure, nor were click- or noise-burst-evoked auditory brainstem response thresholds different from controls. Yet inner hair cell (IHC) ribbons and auditory nerve responses showed significantly less deterioration in NO-GC1 KO and NO-GC2 KO mice after noise exposure. Consistent with a selective role of NO-GC in IHCs, NO-GC β1 mRNA was found in isolated IHCs but not in OHCs. Using transgenic mice expressing the fluorescence resonance energy transfer-based cGMP biosensor cGi500, NO-induced elevation of cGMP was detected in real-time in IHCs but not in OHCs. Pharmacologic long-term treatment with a NO-GC stimulator altered auditory nerve responses but did not affect OHC function and hearing thresholds. Interestingly, NO-GC stimulation exacerbated the loss of auditory nerve response in aged animals but attenuated the loss in younger animals. We propose NO-GC2 and, to some degree, NO-GC1 as targets for early pharmacologic prevention of auditory fiber loss (synaptopathy). Both isoforms provide selective benefits for hearing function by maintaining the functional integrity of auditory nerve fibers in early life rather than at old age.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Pharmacol

Publication Date





375 - 388


Animals, Female, Guanylate Cyclase, Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner, Isoenzymes, Male, Mice, Mice, Knockout, Mice, Transgenic, Morpholines, Nitric Oxide, Noise, Pyrimidines, Rats, Rats, Wistar, Receptors, Cell Surface, Synapses