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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Spiral ligament fibrocyte-derived MCP-1/CCL2 contributes to inner ear inflammation secondary to nontypeable H. influenzae-induced otitis media

Jeong-Im Woo1, Huiqi Pan13, Sejo Oh1, David J Lim12 and Sung K Moon1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Cell Biology & Genetics, House Ear Institute, 2100 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA

2 Department of Cell and Neurobiology, University of Southern California, 1975 Zonal Avenue, KAM 500, Los Angeles, CA, USA

3 Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, 94 Mallette St, Camperdow NSW 2050, Australia

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:314  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-314

Published: 28 October 2010



Otitis media (OM), one of the most common pediatric infectious diseases, causes inner ear inflammation resulting in vertigo and sensorineural hearing loss. Previously, we showed that spiral ligament fibrocytes (SLFs) recognize OM pathogens and up-regulate chemokines. Here, we aim to determine a key molecule derived from SLFs, contributing to OM-induced inner ear inflammation.


Live NTHI was injected into the murine middle ear through the tympanic membrane, and histological analysis was performed after harvesting the temporal bones. Migration assays were conducted using the conditioned medium of NTHI-exposed SLFs with and without inhibition of MCP-1/CCL2 and CCR2. qRT-PCR analysis was performed to demonstrate a compensatory up-regulation of alternative genes induced by the targeting of MCP-1/CCL2 or CCR2.


Transtympanic inoculation of live NTHI developed serous and purulent labyrinthitis after clearance of OM. THP-1 cells actively migrated and invaded the extracellular matrix in response to the conditioned medium of NTHI-exposed SLFs. This migratory activity was markedly inhibited by the viral CC chemokine inhibitor and the deficiency of MCP-1/CCL2, indicating that MCP-1/CCL2 is a main attractant of THP-1 cells among the SLF-derived molecules. We further demonstrated that CCR2 deficiency inhibits migration of monocyte-like cells in response to NTHI-induced SLF-derived molecules. Immunolabeling showed an increase in MCP-1/CCL2 expression in the cochlear lateral wall of the NTHI-inoculated group. Contrary to the in vitro data, deficiency of MCP-1/CCL2 or CCR2 did not inhibit OM-induced inner ear inflammation in vivo. We demonstrated that targeting MCP-1/CCL2 enhances NTHI-induced up-regulation of MCP-2/CCL8 in SLFs and up-regulates the basal expression of CCR2 in the splenocytes. We also found that targeting CCR2 enhances NTHI-induced up-regulation of MCP-1/CCL2 in SLFs.


Taken together, we suggest that NTHI-induced SLF-derived MCP-1/CCL2 is a key molecule contributing to inner ear inflammation through CCR2-mediated recruitment of monocytes. However, deficiency of MCP-1/CCL2 or CCR2 alone was limited to inhibit OM-induced inner ear inflammation due to compensation of alternative genes.