Current Research

Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

Numerous ongoing clinical trials and prospective studies, ENT Quality of Life and Epidemiologic Research, new product trials, Basic science research

Bernd Sokolowski, Ph.D.

Dr. Sokolowski received his PhD in cell biology from the Georgetown University School of Medicine, specializing in the development of sensory cells of the inner ear. He did postdoctoral work at The Johns Hopkins University, Hearing Sciences Center, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Physiology. There, he studied the electrical signals relevant to coding sound in the cochlea and the proteins that underlie these signals. He is presently a Full Professor and Research Director in the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery where his research explores the mechanisms that turn on cellular and genetic events that regulate the development of nerves and sensory cells in the inner ear. Studies are presently concentrating on the proteins that regulate hearing sensitivity and intracellular signaling in these cells. Members of the lab use multiple techniques including gene cloning, proteomics, bioinformatics, and electrophysiology to discover and characterize these proteins.

Research Mission. . Inner ear dysfunction affects millions of children and adults in the form of hearing loss (including deafness), tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and disorders of balance (vertigo). These problems can occur before birth, at birth, or sometime during various stages in life. For those who suffer from tinnitus and vertigo the effects can be frightening and debilitating. Moreover, hearing loss can permanently erode the speech, language and cognitive development of children, as well as diminish or destroy self-confidence and perceptual abilities of adults, whose hearing was once normal but is now degenerating. The underlying causes of many of these disorders are not fully understood and, consequently, are incurable at this time.

My research at the Otology Laboratory of the University of South Florida, Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, is aimed at discovering the principles that underlie the formation of the inner ear. An understanding of these principles is essential because it will provide insights into both the genetic and cellular mechanisms that underlie many of these disorders, whether they occur at birth or later in life. Furthermore, research on the developing inner ear shows that, while restoration of damaged cells does not readily occur under normal circumstances in humans, there are species in which healing of damaged tissues occurs naturally. Consequently, understanding how development and restoration occurs in other species will help us to restore function in the damaged inner ears of humans. This understanding is the primary goal of our research and it is my hope that this knowledge will bring about the necessary cures.

Publications 2009 to present
Sakai Y, Sokolowski BHA (2014) The BK channel affects extrinsic and intrinsic mechanisms of apoptosis. J Neurosci Res. In press.

Peng Z, Sakai Y, Kurgan Y, Sokolowski B, Uversky VN (2014) Intrinsic disorder in the BK channel and its interactome. PLoS One 9(4): e94331 Epub April 11.

Darville L, Sokolowski BHA (2014) Bottom-up and shotgun proteomics to identify a comprehensive cochlear proteome. J Vis Exp. (85):Epub Mar 7.

Ding B, Frisina RD, Zhu X, Sakai Y, Sokolowski B, Walton JP (2014) Direct control of Na+-K+-2Cl- co-transport protein (NKCC1) expression with aldosterone: Biotherapeutic implications. Am J Physiol. 306(1):C66-75. Epub 2013 Oct 3.

Darville L, Sokolowski BHA (2013) In-depth proteomic analysis of mouse cochlear sensory epithelium by mass spectrometry. J Proteome Res. 12(8):3620-3630.

Sokolowski S, Harvey MC, Sakai Y, Jordan A, Sokolowski BHA (2012) The large conductance calcium-activated K(+) channel interacts with the small GTPase Rab11b. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 426:221-225.

Sokolowski BHA, Orchard S, Harvey M, Sridhar S, Sakai Y (2011) Conserved BK interactions relevant to cell death and survival. PLoS One 6(12):e28532. Epub Dec 9.

Sakai Y, Harvey M, Sokolowski BHA (2011) Identification and quantification of full-length BK channel variants in the developing mouse cochlea. J Neurosci Res. 89:1747–1760.

Kathiresan T, Orchard S, Harvey MC, Sokolowski BHA (2009) A protein interaction network for the large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel in the mouse cochlea. Mol Cell Proteomics. 8(8):1972-1987.

Sokolowski B, Duncan RK, Chen S, Karolat J, Kathiresan T, Harvey M. (2009) The large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel interacts with the apolipoprotein ApoA1. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 387(4):671-675.

Kathiresan T, Harvey MC, Sokolowski BH. (2009) The use of 2-D gels to identify novel protein-protein interactions in the cochlea. Methods Mol Biol. 493:269-286.

Harvey MC, Sokolowski BH. (2009) In vivo verification of protein interactions in the inner ear by coimmunoprecipitation. Methods Mol Biol. 493:299-310.

Harvey MC, Karolat J, Sakai Y, Sokolowski BHA (2009) PPTX a pentraxin domain-containing protein interacts with the T1 domain of Kv4. J Neurosci Res. 87(8):1841-1847.

Photograph of a receptor cell, known as an outer hair cell (OHC), in the mammalian cochlea with its large nucleus (N) located at the base of the cell. Receptor cells in the cochlea have structures known as stereocilia (S) at their apex. These structures convert the mechanical energy of sound to an electrochemical signal that can be processed by the peripheral and central auditory nerves. Outer hair cells have an additional feature; they can contract and extend in response to hyper- and depolarization of the cell. Their motility is regulated by signals from the brain, thereby allowing for the fine-tuning of mechanical signals that impinge on the cochlea. The photo was taken at a magnification of 7100 X using an electron microscope by Margaret Harvey, Senior Biological Scientist. Check out the link to see an outer hair cell’s response to music: