Section on Sensory Cell Biology
Porter Neuroscience Research Center
35A Convent Drive, Room 1D971
Bethesda, MD 20892-3729 For U.S. Postal Service
Bethesda, MD 20814 For other carriers (FedEx, UPS, etc.)
Dr. Cunningham received a B.A. and M.A. in Audiology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She completed a Clinical Fellowship in Audiology at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis. She received a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Virginia and then completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Auditory Neuroscience at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Cunningham started her own lab at the Medical University of South Carolina in 2004 where she conducted the initial studies on heat shock protein (HSP)-mediated protection against ototoxic drug-induced hearing loss and hair cell death. This work was funded by a Research Project Grant (R01) from the NIDCD. Dr. Cunningham moved to the NIDCD's Section on Sensory Cell Biology in 2011.
Diagram of cross-section of the
utricle showing hair cells and
Supporting cells (labeled red with
anti-Sox2) infected with adenovirus
driving GFP expression
Mouse utricles with hair cells labeled with
antibodies against calmodulin (green) and
calbindin (red). Left panel is a control utricle
showing type I (red) and type II (green) hair cells.
Right panel is a utricle treated with cisplatin,
which is toxic to hair cells. At this low
cisplatin concentration, type I hair cells are
killed while type II hair cells survive.
Section on Sensory Cell Biology
Our research is focused on the mechanosensory hair cells that are the receptor cells of hearing and balance. Specifically, we are interested in the molecular signals that regulate the survival, homeostasis, and death of these cells. Mammalian hair cells are terminally differentiated and are not regenerated when they are lost. Therefore, human hair cells must survive and function for up to a century (or longer) in order to transduce sound and head movement into the neural signals of hearing and balance throughout a normal lifespan. During this lengthy period of time, the hair cell may encounter multiple potentially-toxic stimuli, including exposure to excessive sound and/or exposure to therapeutic drugs with ototoxic side effects. Hair cells must be able to respond rapidly and effectively to these and other potentially-cytotoxic stimuli if they are to survive and continue to function.
We are examining the signals that mediate the survival and death of hair cells under stress. We are currently studying the role of stress-induced proteins called heat shock proteins (HSPs) in protecting against hair cell death. Our studies use an in vitro preparation of the adult mouse utricle (a balance organ in the inner ear), which is the best-characterized model system for in vitro studies of mature mammalian hair cells. Using this preparation, we have shown that HSPs inhibit hair cell death caused by both major classes of ototoxic drugs, namely the aminoglycoside antibiotics and the antineoplastic agent cisplatin. In addition, we have shown that mice that constitutively express HSP70 are resistant to hearing loss and cochlear hair cell death caused by systemic aminoglycoside exposure. Our studies indicate that HSP induction is a critical stress response in the inner ear that can promote survival of hair cells exposed to major stressors.
Currently our studies are broadly divided into two groups: 1) those aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the protective effects of HSPs and 2) those aimed at translating our findings into clinical therapies to prevent hearing loss caused by exposure to ototoxic drugs.
Video: Dissection of Adult Mouse Utricle and Adenovirus-Mediated Supporting Cell Infection
Click the start button above to see a video demonstration of the mouse utricle
dissection and infection of supporting cells using adenovirus.
From L-R: Alex Claussen, Soumen Roy, Elyssa Monzack
Lindsey May, Matthew Ryals
Andrew Breglio, Clinical Fellow, 301-827-4172 (Send e-mail)
Lindsey May, Biologist, 301-827-4197 (Send e-mail)
Elyssa Monzack, Ph.D., Postdoc Fellow IRTA, 301-827-4184 (Send e-mail)
Soumen Roy, Ph.D., Postdoc Fellow (VF), 301-827-4182 (Send e-mail)
More staff photos
From L-R: Dr. Soumen Roy,
Lisa Cunningham, Lindsey May,
From L-R: Astrid Botty, Alexander Claussen,
Monzack, EL and Cunningham, LL (2013): Lead Roles for Supporting Actors: Critical Roles for Inner Ear Supporting Cells. Hearing Research 303:20-9.
- McDougald, DS; Cunningham LL; Chien, WW (2013): Gene Therapy for Hereditary Hearing Loss. Perspectives on Hearing and Hearing Disorders: Research and Diagnostics. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Special Interest Group 6. May 2013; 17:5-14.
- Roy, S*; Ryals, MM*; Botty, A; Fitzgerald, TS; Cunningham, LL (2013): Sound preconditioning therapy in mice inhibits ototoxic hearing loss. J. Clinical Investigation 123(11):4945–4949.
- May, LM; Kramarenko, II; Brandon, CS; Voelkel-Johnson, C; Roy, S; Truong, K; Francis, SP; Monzack, EL; Lee, F-S; Cunningham, LL (2013): Inner Ear Supporting Cells Protect Hair Cells by Secreting HSP70. J. Clinical Investigation 123(8):3577–3587.
- Brandon, CS; Voelkel-Johnson, C; May, LA; Cunningham, LL (2012): Dissection of Adult Mouse Utricle and Adenovirus-Mediated Supporting Cell Infection. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 61, doi:10.3791/3734. Published online 28 March 2012.
- Francis SP; Kramarenko II; Brandon CS; Lee FS; Baker TG; Cunningham LL (2011). Celastrol inhibits aminoglycoside-induced ototoxicity via heat shock protein 32. Cell Death & Disease 2, e195; doi:10.1038/cddis.2011.76. Published online 25 August 2011.
- Taleb, M; Brandon, CS; Lee, F-S; Harris, KC; Dillmann, WH; Cunningham, LL(2009): Hsp70 inhibits aminoglycoside-induced hearing loss and cochlear hair cell death Cell Stress Chaperones 14:427-437.
- Ou, HC; Cunningham, LL; Francis, SP; Brandon, CS; Simon, JA; Raible, DW; Rubel, EW (2009): Identification of FDA-Approved drugs and bioactives that protect hair cells in the zebrafish (Danio Rerio) lateral line and mouse (Mus Musculus) utricle JARO 10(2):191-203.
- Taleb, M; Brandon, CS; Lee, F-S; Lomax, MI; Dillmann, WH; Cunningham, LL(2008): Hsp70 inhibits aminoglycoside-induced hair cell death and is necessary for the protective effect of heat shock. J. Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 9(3):277-89.
- Chiu, LL; Cunningham, LL; Raible, DW; Rubel, EW; Ou, HC (2008): Using the zebrafish lateral line to screen for ototoxicity. J. Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 9(2):178-90.
- Sugahara, K; Rubel, EW; Cunningham, LL (2006): JNK signaling in neomycin-induced vestibular hair cell death. Hear. Res. 221(1-2):128-135.
- Cunningham, LL and Brandon, CS (2006): Heat shock inhibits both aminoglycoside- and cisplatin-induced sensory hair cell death. J. Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 7(3):299.
- Cunningham, LL(2006): The adult mouse utricle as an in vitro preparation for studies of ototoxic drug-induced sensory hair cell death. Brain Research May 26;1091(1):277-81.
- Cheng, AG; Cunningham, LLand Rubel EW (2005): Mechanisms of hair cell death and protection Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 13:343-348.
- Heydt, JL; Cunningham, LL; Rubel, EW; Coltrera, MD (2004). Round window gentamicin application: an inner ear hair cell damage protocol for the mouse. Hear. Res. 192:65-74.
- Cunningham, LL; Matsui, JI; Warchol, ME; Rubel, EW (2004) Overexpression of Bcl-2 prevents neomycin-induced hair cell death and caspase-9 activation in the adult mouse utricle in vitro. J. Neurobiology 60(1):89-100.
- Murakami, SL; Cunningham, LL; Werner, LA; Bauer, E; Pujol, R; Raible, DW; Rubel, EW (2003) Developmental Differences in Susceptibility to Neomycin-Induced Hair Cell Death in the Lateral Line Neuromasts of Zebrafish (Danio rerio). Hear Res. Dec;186(1-2):47-56.
- Cunningham, LL and Gonzalez-Fernandez, F (2003). Internalization of Interphotoreceptor Retinoid-Binding Protein (IRBP) by the Xenopus Retinal Pigment Epithelium. J. Comp. Neurol. 466:331.
- Harris, JA; Cheng, AG; Cunningham, LL; Raible, DW; Rubel EW (2003): Neomycin-induced Hair Cell Death in the Lateral Line of Zebrafish (Danio rerio): a Model System to Study Hair Cell Survival. J. Assoc Res Otolaryngoly 4(2):219.
- Cheng, AG; Cunningham, LL and Rubel, EW (2003): Hair Cell Death in the Avian Basilar Papilla: Characterization of the in vitro Model and Caspase Activation J. Assoc Res Otolaryngol 4(1):91-105.
- Cunningham, LL, Cheng, AG and Rubel, EW (2002): Caspase Activation in Hair Cells of the Mouse Utricle Exposed to Neomycin J. Neuroscience 22(19):8532-8540.
- Cunningham, LL and Gonzalez-Fernandez, F. (2000): Coordination between Production and Turnover of Interphotoreceptor Retinoid-Binding Protein (IRBP) in Zebrafish Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. Oct;41(11):3590-9.
- Cunningham, LL; Yang, L; Gonzalez-Fernandez, F (1999): Interphotoreceptor Retinoid-Binding Protein (IRBP) is Rapidly Cleared from the Xenopus Interphotoreceptor Matrix Experimental Eye Research 68:399-410.
- Stenkamp, DL; Cunningham, LL; Raymond, PA; Gonzalez-Fernandez, F. (1998): Novel Expression Patterns of Interphotoreceptor Retinoid-Binding Protein (IRBP) in the Developing and Adult Zebrafish Retina and RPE Molecular Vision 4:26-39.
- Rajendran, RR; VanNiel, EE; Stenkamp, DL; Cunningham, LL; Raymond, PA; Gonzalez-Fernandez, F (1996): Zebrafish Interphotoreceptor Retinoid-Binding Protein: Differential Circadian Expression Among Cone Subtypes Journal of Experimental Biology 199:2775-2787.
- Miyamoto, RT; Osberger, MJ; Cunningham, LL; Kirk, KI; Myres, W; Robbins, A; Kessler, K (1994): Single-Channel to Multi-Channel Conversions in Pediatric Cochlear Implant Recipients American Journal of Otology 15(1):40-45.