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Transcriptomic analysis of the zebrafish inner ear points to growth hormone mediated regeneration following acoustic trauma

Julie B Schuck1, Huifang Sun1, W Todd Penberthy12, Nigel GF Cooper3, Xiaohong Li3 and Michael E Smith1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Western Kentucky University, 1906 College Heights Blvd., Bowling Green, KY 42101, USA

2 Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Burnett School of Biomedical Science, University of Central Florida College of Medicine, 4000 Central Florida Blvd., Orlando, FL 32816, USA

3 Department of Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology University of Louisville, School of Medicine, 500 South Preston Street, Louisville, KY 40202, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:88  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-88

Published: 2 September 2011



Unlike mammals, teleost fishes are capable of regenerating sensory inner ear hair cells that have been lost following acoustic or ototoxic trauma. Previous work indicated that immediately following sound exposure, zebrafish saccules exhibit significant hair cell loss that recovers to pre-treatment levels within 14 days. Following acoustic trauma in the zebrafish inner ear, we used microarray analysis to identify genes involved in inner ear repair following acoustic exposure. Additionally, we investigated the effect of growth hormone (GH) on cell proliferation in control zebrafish utricles and saccules, since GH was significantly up-regulated following acoustic trauma.


Microarray analysis, validated with the aid of quantitative real-time PCR, revealed several genes that were highly regulated during the process of regeneration in the zebrafish inner ear. Genes that had fold changes of ≥ 1.4 and P -values ≤ 0.05 were considered significantly regulated and were used for subsequent analysis. Categories of biological function that were significantly regulated included cancer, cellular growth and proliferation, and inflammation. Of particular significance, a greater than 64-fold increase in growth hormone (gh1) transcripts occurred, peaking at 2 days post-sound exposure (dpse) and decreasing to approximately 5.5-fold by 4 dpse. Pathway Analysis software was used to reveal networks of regulated genes and showed how GH affected these networks. Subsequent experiments showed that intraperitoneal injection of salmon growth hormone significantly increased cell proliferation in the zebrafish inner ear. Many other gene transcripts were also differentially regulated, including heavy and light chain myosin transcripts, both of which were down-regulated following sound exposure, and major histocompatability class I and II genes, several of which were significantly regulated on 2 dpse.


Transcripts for GH, MHC Class I and II genes, and heavy- and light-chain myosins, as well as many others genes, were differentially regulated in the zebrafish inner ear following overexposure to sound. GH injection increased cell proliferation in the inner ear of non-sound-exposed zebrafish, suggesting that GH could play an important role in sensory hair cell regeneration in the teleost ear.