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Expression of tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β genes in the cochlea and inferior colliculus in salicylate-induced tinnitus

Juen-Haur Hwang123, Jin-Cherng Chen34, Shan-Ying Yang5, Ming-Fu Wang5 and Yin-Ching Chan5*

Author Affiliations

1 Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan

2 Department of Otolaryngology, Buddhist Dalin Tzu-Chi General Hospital, Chiayi, Taiwan

3 School of Medicine, Tzu Chi University, Hualien, Taiwan

4 Department of Neurosurgery, Buddhist Dalin Tzu-Chi General Hospital, Chiayi, Taiwan

5 Department of Food and Nutrition, Providence University, Taiwan

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2011, 8:30  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-8-30

Published: 9 April 2011



Changes in the gene expressions for tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and/or interleukin-1β (IL-1β) during tinnitus have not been previously reported. We evaluated tinnitus and mRNA expression levels of TNF-α, IL-1β, and N-methyl D-aspartate receptor subunit 2B (NR2B) genes in cochlea and inferior colliculus (IC) of mice after intraperitoneal injections of salicylate.


Forty-eight 3-month-old male SAMP8 mice were randomly and equally divided into two groups: salicylate-treated and saline-treated. All mice were trained to perform an active avoidance task for 5 days. Once conditioned, an active avoidance task was performed 2 hours after daily intraperitoneal injections of saline, either alone or containing 300 mg/kg sodium salicylate. Total numbers of times (tinnitus score) the mice climbed during the inter-trial silent period for 10 trials were recorded daily for 4 days (days 7 to 10), and then mice were euthanized for determination of mRNA expression levels of TNF-α, IL-1β, and NR2B genes in cochlea and IC at day 10.


Tinnitus scores increased in response to daily salicylate treatments. The mRNA expression levels of TNF-α increased significantly for the salicylate-treated group compared to the control group in both cochlea (1.89 ± 0.22 vs. 0.87 ± 0.07, P < 0.0001) and IC (2.12 ± 0.23 vs. 1.73 ± 0.22, p = 0.0040). mRNA expression levels for the IL-1β gene also increased significantly in the salicylate group compared to the control group in both cochlea (3.50 ± 1.05 vs. 2.80 ± 0.28, p < 0.0001) and IC (2.94 ± 0.51 versus 1.24 ± 0.52, p = 0.0013). Linear regression analysis revealed a significant positive association between tinnitus scores and expression levels of TNF-α, IL-1β, and NR2B genes in cochlea and IC. In addition, expression levels of the TNF-α gene were positively correlated with those of the NR2Bgene in both cochlea and IC; whereas, the expression levels of the IL-1β gene was positively correlated with that of the NR2B gene in IC, but not in cochlea.


We conclude that salicylate treatment resulting in tinnitus augments expression of the TNF-α and IL-1β genes in cochlea and IC of mice, and we suggest that these proinflammatory cytokines might lead to tinnitus directly or via modulating the NMDA receptor.