Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Vol.304, No.1, 5-10, 2003
Claudins in the tight junctions of stria vascularis marginal cells
In the mammalian cochlea, tight junctional strands are visible on freeze fracture images of marginal cells and other inner ear epithelia. The molecular composition of the strial tight junctions is, however, largely unknown. We investigated the expression of integral tight junction-proteins, claudin-1 to -4, and occludin, in stria vascularis of the guinea-pig cochlea, as compared to kidney. Western blot analysis revealed a strong expression of claudin-4 and occludin in strial tissue, and confocal immunofluorescence microscopy demonstrated their presence in the tight junctions of the marginal cells. In addition, a moderate level of claudin-3 and claudin-1 was detected and both were located in the marginal tight junctions. Claudins-1, -3, and -4 are characteristic of epithelia with low paracellular permeability and claudin-4 is known to restrict the passage of cations through epithelial tight junctions. In the marginal cells, these claudins appear to be responsible for the separation of the potassium-rich endolymph from the sodium-rich intrastrial fluid. In contrast, Western blot analysis and confocal microscopy demonstrated that the marginal cell epithelium does not contain claudin-2, which forms a cation-selective pore in tight junctions. Its absence indicates a cation-tight paracellular pathway in the marginal cells. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.