[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mutations in the GJB2 gene, which encodes the gap junction (GJ) protein connexin26 (Cx26), are the most common cause of inherited non-syndromic hearing loss (NSHL). We identified two missense mutations, p.D46E (c.138T>G) and p.T86R (c.257C>G), of GJB2 in Korean HL families. The novel p.D46E mutation exhibited autosomal dominant inheritance, while the p.T86R mutation, which is exclusively found in Asians, segregated with an autosomal recessive pattern. Thus, we sought to elucidate the pathogenic nature of such different inherited patterns of HL. We studied protein localization and gap junction functions in cells transfected with wild-type or mutant Cx26 tagged with fluorescent proteins, which allowed visual confirmation of homozygous or heterozygous mutant GJs. The Cx26-D46E mutant was targeted to the plasma membrane, but this mutant protein failed to transfer Ca(2+) or propidium iodide intercellularly, suggesting disruption of both ionic and biochemical coupling. Heterozygous GJs also showed dysfunctional intercellular couplings and hemichannel opening, confirming the dominant-negative nature of the p.D46E mutation. The Cx26-T86R mutant protein did not form GJs, since the mutated protein was confined in the cytoplasm and not transported to the cell membrane. When Cx26-T86R was co-expressed with Cx26-WT, ionic and biochemical coupling was normal, consistent with the recessive nature of the mutation. These studies revealed distinct pathogenic mechanisms of two GJB2 mutations identified in Korean families.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Connexins (Cxs) are a family of protein subunits constituting gap junctions, which facilitate exchanges of molecules important for cellular signaling and metabolic activities intercellularly or between different regions of the cytoplasm in the same cells. Mutations in Cxs are the major cause of nonsyndromic childhood deafness, which are mostly found in Cx26 and Cx30 expressed in cochlear supporting cells and fibrocytes. So far, little is known about the functional contribution of Cxs in other types of cochlear cells. Here, we show that Cx29 was highly expressed in the cochlea. The developmental expression time course of Cx29 was similar to that of a myelin marker [myelin associate glycoprotein (MAG)]. Immunolabeling identified Cx29 exclusively in the Schwann cells myelinating the soma and fiber of spiral ganglion (SG) neurons. The absence of the Cx29 gene in mice (Cx29(-/-) mice), with a penetrance of approximately 50%, caused a delay in the maturation of hearing thresholds, an early loss of high-frequency sensitivities, a prolongation in latency and distortion in the wave I of the auditory brainstem responses, and elevated sensitivity to noise damages. The morphology of sensory hair cells and otoacoustic emissions that depend on the integrity of hair cells were normal in Cx29(-/-) mice. In contrast, decreases in MAG expression and severe demyelination at the soma of SG neurons were found in Cx29(-/-) mice. Our findings demonstrated the requirement of Cx29 for normal cochlear functions and suggest that Cx29 is a new candidate gene for studying the auditory neuropathy.
No preview · Article · Mar 2006 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dysfunction of gap junctions (GJs) caused by mutations in connexin26 (Cx26) and Cx30 accounts for nearly half of all cases of hereditary nonsyndromic deafness cases. Although it is widely held that GJs connecting supporting cells in the organ of Corti mainly provide ionic pathways for rapid removal of K+ around the base of hair cells, the function of GJs in the cochlea remains unknown. Here we show that GJs were not assembled in the supporting cells of the organ of Corti until 3 days after birth in mice and then gradually matured to connect supporting cells before the onset of hearing. In organotypic cochlear cultures that were confirmed to express GJs, GJs mediated the propagation of intracellular Ca2+ concentration waves in supporting cells by allowing intercellular diffusion of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate. We found that a subset of structurally mild Cx26 mutations located at the second transmembrane region (V84L, V95M, and A88S) and a Cx30 mutation located at the first cytoplasmic segment (T5M) specifically affect the intercellular exchange of larger molecules but leave the ionic permeability intact. Our results indicated that Cx26 and Cx30 mutations that are linked to sensorineural deafness retained ionic coupling but were deficient in biochemical permeability. Therefore, GJ-mediated intercellular exchange of biochemically important molecules is required for normal cochlear functions.
Preview · Article · Nov 2005 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The importance of connexins (Cxs) in cochlear functions has been demonstrated by the finding that mutations in Cx genes cause a large proportion of sensorineural hearing loss cases. However, it is still unclear how Cxs contribute to the cochlear function. Recent data (33) obtained from Cx30 knockout mice showing that a reduction of Cx diversity in assembling gap junctions is sufficient to cause deafness suggest that functional interactions of different subtypes of Cxs may be essential in normal hearing. In this work we show that the two major forms of Cxs (Cx26 and Cx30) in the cochlea have overlapping expression patterns beginning at early embryonic stages. Cx26 and Cx30 were colocalized in most gap junction plaques in the cochlea, and their coassembly was tested by coimmunoprecipitation. To compare functional differences of gap junctions with different molecular configurations, homo- and heteromeric gap junctions composed of Cx26 and/or Cx30 were reconstituted by transfections in human embryonic kidney-293 cells. The ratio imaging technique and fluorescent tracer diffusion assays were used to assess the function of reconstituted gap junctions. Our results revealed that gap junctions with different molecular configurations show differences in biochemical coupling, and that intercellular Ca(2+) signaling across heteromeric gap junctions consisting of Cx26 and Cx30 was at least twice as fast as their homomerically assembled counterparts. Our data suggest that biochemical permeability and the dynamics of intercellular signaling through gap junction channels, in addition to gap junction-mediated intercellular ionic coupling, may be important factors to consider for studying functional roles of gap junctions in the cochlea.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ion channels in the degenerin-epithelial sodium channel (DEG-ENaC) family perform diverse functions, including mechanosensation. Here we explored the role of the vertebrate DEG-ENaC protein, acid-sensing ion channel 2 (ASIC2), in auditory transduction. Contributions of ASIC2 to hearing were examined by comparing hearing threshold and noise sensitivity of wild-type and ASIC2 null mice. ASIC2 null mice showed no significant hearing loss, indicating that the ASIC2 was not directly involved in the mechanotransduction of the mammalian cochlea. However, we found that (1) ASIC2 was present in the spiral ganglion (SG) neurons in the adult cochlea and that externally applied protons induced amiloride-sensitive sodium currents and action potentials in SG neurons in vitro, (2) proton-induced responses were greatly reduced in SG neurons obtained from ASIC2 null mice, indicating that activations of ASIC2 contributed a major portion of the proton-induced excitatory response in SG neurons, and (3) ASIC2 null mice were considerably more resistant to noise-induced temporary, but not permanent, threshold shifts. Together, these data suggest that ASIC2 contributes to suprathreshold functions of the cochlea. The presence of ASIC2 in SG neurons could provide sensors to directly convert local acidosis to excitatory responses, therefore offering a cellular mechanism linking hearing losses caused by many enigmatic causes (e.g., ischemia or inflammation of the inner ear) to excitotoxicity.
No preview · Article · Nov 2004 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The importance of connexins (Cxs) in the cochlear functions has been indicated by the finding that mutations in connexin genes cause a large proportion of sensorineural deafness cases. However, functional roles of connexins in the cochlea are still unclear. In this study, we compared the relative expression levels of 16 different subtypes of mouse connexins in the cochlea. cDNA macroarray hybridizations identified four most prominently expressed connexins (listed in descending order): Cxs 26, 29, 30, and 43. Two of these connexins (Cx26 and Cx30), both belonging to the beta-group, were investigated for their molecular assemblies in the cochlea. Co-immunostaining showed expressions of Cxs 26 and 30 in the same gap junction plaques and their co-assembly was confirmed by co-immunoprecipitation of proteins extracted from the cochlear tissues. The heterologous molecular assembly of connexins is expected to produce gap junctions with biophysical characteristics appropriate for maintaining ionic homeostasis in the cochlea.
No preview · Article · Aug 2003 · Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications