Autoimmune sensorineural hearing loss (ASNHL) is the most common cause of sudden hearing loss in adults. Although autoimmune etiopathogenic events have long been suspected in ASNHL, inner ear-specific Ags capable of targeting T cell autoreactivity have not been identified in ASNHL. In this study, we show by ELISPOT analysis that compared with normal hearing age- and sex-matched control subjects, ASNHL patients have significantly higher frequencies of circulating T cells producing either IFN-γ (p = 0.0001) or IL-5 (p = 0.03) in response to recombinant human cochlin, the most abundant inner ear protein. In some patients, cochlin responsiveness involved both CD4+ and CD8 + T cells whereas other patients showed cochlin responsiveness confined to CD8+ T cells. ASNHL patients also showed significantly elevated cochlin-specific serum Ab titers compared with both normal hearing age- and sex-matched control subjects and patients with noise- and/or age-related hearing loss (p < 0.05 at all dilutions tested through 1/2048). Our study is the first to show T cell responsiveness to an inner ear-specific protein in ASNHL patients, and implicates cochlin as a prominent target Ag for mediating autoimmune inner ear inflammation and hearing loss.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy