Journal of Cell Science
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Mutations in the genes that encode the gap junction proteins connexin 26 (Cx26, encoded by GJB2) and Cx30 (GJB6) are the leading cause of hereditary hearing loss. That said, the Cx30 p.Ala88Val (A88V) mutant causes Clouston syndrome, but not hearing loss. Here, we report that the Cx30-A88V mutant, despite being toxic to inner ear-derived HEI-OC1 cells, conferred remarkable long-term protection against age-related high frequency hearing loss in Cx30(A88V/A88V) mice. During early development, there were no overt structural differences in the cochlea between genotypes, including a normal complement of hair cells; however, the supporting cell Cx30 gap junction plaques in mutant mice were reduced in size. In adulthood, Cx30(A88V/A88V) mutant mice had a reduction of cochlear Cx30 mRNA and protein, yet a full complement of hair cells. Conversely, the age-related high frequency hearing loss in Cx30(+/+) and Cx30(+/A88V) mice was due to extensive loss of outer hair cells. Our data suggest that the Cx30-A88V mutant confers long-term hearing protection and prevention of hair cell death, possibly via a feedback mechanism that leads to the reduction of total Cx30 gap junction expression in the cochlea.
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