Age-related decline of neuronal function is associated with age-related structural changes. In the central nervous system, age-related decline of cognitive performance is thought to be caused by synaptic loss instead of neuronal loss. However, in the cochlea, age-related loss of hair cells and spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) is consistently observed in a variety of species, including humans. Since age-related loss of these cells is a major contributing factor to presbycusis, it is important to study possible molecular mechanisms underlying this age-related cell death. Previous studies suggested that apoptotic pathways were involved in age-related loss of hair cells and SGNs. In the present study, we examined the role of Bcl-2 gene in age-related hearing loss. In one transgenic mouse line over-expressing human Bcl-2, there were no significant differences between transgenic mice and wild type littermate controls in their hearing thresholds during aging. Histological analysis of the hair cells and SGNs showed no significant conservation of these cells in transgenic animals compared to the wild type controls during aging. These data suggest that Bcl-2 overexpression has no significant effect on age-related loss of hair cells and SGNs. We also found no delay of age-related hearing loss in mice lacking Bax gene. These findings suggest that age-related hearing loss is not through an apoptotic pathway involving key members of Bcl-2 family
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