Cellular and Deafness Mechanisms Underlying Connexin Mutation-Induced Hearing Loss – A Common Hereditary Deafness

  • Wingard J
  • Zhao H
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Abstract

Hearing loss due to mutations in the connexin gene family, which encodes gap junctional proteins, is a common form of hereditary deafness. In particular, connexin 26 (Cx26, GJB2) mutations are responsible for ~50% of non-syndromic hearing loss, which is the highest incidence of genetic disease. In the clinic, Cx26 mutations cause various auditory phenotypes ranging from profound congenital deafness at birth to mild, progressive hearing loss in late childhood. Recent experiments demonstrate that congenital deafness mainly results from cochlear developmental disorders rather than hair cell degeneration and endocochlear potential reduction, while late-onset hearing loss results from reduction of active cochlear amplification, even though cochlear hair cells have no connexin expression. However, there is no apparent, demonstrable relationship between specific changes in connexin (channel) functions and the phenotypes of mutation-induced hearing loss. Moreover, new experiments further demonstrate that the hypothesized K(+)-recycling disruption is not a principal deafness mechanism for connexin deficiency induced hearing loss. Cx30 (GJB6), Cx29 (GJC3), Cx31 (GJB3), and Cx43 (GJA1) mutations can also cause hearing loss with distinct pathological changes in the cochlea. These new studies provide invaluable information about deafness mechanisms underlying connexin mutation-induced hearing loss and also provide important information for developing new protective and therapeutic strategies for this common deafness. However, the detailed cellular mechanisms underlying these pathological changes remain unclear. Also, little is known about specific mutation-induced pathological changes in vivo and little information is available for humans. Such further studies are urgently required.

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Wingard, J. C., & Zhao, H.-B. (2015). Cellular and Deafness Mechanisms Underlying Connexin Mutation-Induced Hearing Loss – A Common Hereditary Deafness. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2015.00202

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