Hyperacusis in the Adult Fmr1-KO Mouse Model of Fragile X Syndrome: The Therapeutic Relevance of Cochlear Alterations and BKCa Channels

Celeste Ferraguto, Yohan Bouleau, Thibault Peineau, Didier Dulon, Susanna Pietropaolo
IJMS. 2023-07-24; 24(14): 11863
DOI: 10.3390/ijms241411863

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Hyperacusis, i.e., an increased sensitivity to sounds, is described in several neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), including Fragile X Syndrome (FXS). The mechanisms underlying hyperacusis in FXS are still largely unknown and effective therapies are lacking. Big conductance calcium-activated potassium (BKCa) channels were proposed as a therapeutic target to treat several behavioral disturbances in FXS preclinical models, but their role in mediating their auditory alterations was not specifically addressed. Furthermore, studies on the acoustic phenotypes of FXS animal models mostly focused on central rather than peripheral auditory pathways. Here, we provided an extensive characterization of the peripheral auditory phenotype of the Fmr1-knockout (KO) mouse model of FXS at adulthood. We also assessed whether the acute administration of Chlorzoxazone, a BKCa agonist, could rescue the auditory abnormalities of adult mutant mice. Fmr1-KO mice both at 3 and 6 months showed a hyperacusis-like startle phenotype with paradoxically reduced auditory brainstem responses associated with a loss of ribbon synapses in the inner hair cells (IHCs) compared to their wild-type (WT) littermates. BKCa expression was markedly reduced in the IHCs of KOs compared to WT mice, but only at 6 months, when Chlorzoxazone rescued mutant auditory dysfunction. Our findings highlight the age-dependent and progressive contribution of peripheral mechanisms and BKCa channels to adult hyperacusis in FXS, suggesting a novel therapeutic target to treat auditory dysfunction in NDDs.

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