Previous work demonstrates that the hearing loss in Alport mice is caused by defects in the stria vascularis. As the animals age, progressive thickening of strial capillary basement membranes (SCBMs) occurs associated with elevated levels of extracellular matrix expression and hypoxia-related gene and protein expression. These conditions render the animals susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss. In an effort to develop a more comprehensive understanding of how the underlying mutation in the COL4A3 gene influences homeostasis in the stria vascularis, we performed vascular permeability studies combined with RNA-seq analysis using isolated stria vascularis from 7-week old wild-type and Alport mice on the 129 Sv background. Alport SCBMs were found to be less permeable than wild-type littermates. RNA-seq and bioinformatics analysis revealed 68 genes were induced and 61 genes suppressed in the stria from Alport mice relative to wild-type using a cut-off of 2-fold. These included pathways involving transcription factors associated with the regulation of proinflammatory responses as well as cytokines, chemokines, and chemokine receptors that are up- or down-regulated. Canonical pathways included modulation of genes associated with glucose and glucose-1-PO4 degradation, NAD biosynthesis, histidine degradation, calcium signaling, and glutamate receptor signaling (among others). In all, the data point to the Alport stria being in an inflammatory state with disruption in numerous metabolic pathways indicative of metabolic stress, a likely cause for the susceptibility of Alport mice to noise-induced hearing loss under conditions that do not cause permanent hearing loss in age/ strain-matched wild-type mice. The work lays the foundation for studies aimed at understanding the nature of strial pathology in Alport mice. The modulation of these genes under conditions of therapeutic intervention may provide important pre-clinical data to justify trials in humans afflicted with the disease.
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