Liu W, Edin F, Blom H, Magnusson P, Schrott-Fischer A, Glueckert R, Santi PA, Li H, Laurell G, Rask-Andersen H
Cell Tissue Res. 365 (1) 13-27 [2016-07-00; online 2016-03-05]
Globally 360 million people have disabling hearing loss and, of these, 32 million are children. Human hearing relies on 15,000 hair cells that transduce mechanical vibrations to electrical signals in the auditory nerve. The process is powered by the endo-cochlear potential, which is produced by a vascularized epithelium that actively transports ions in conjunction with a gap junction (GJ) system. This "battery" is located "off-site" in the lateral wall of the cochlea. The GJ syncytium contains the GJ protein genes beta 2 (GJB2/connexin26 (Cx26)) and 6 (GJB6/connexin30 (Cx30)), which are commonly involved in hereditary deafness. Because the molecular arrangement of these proteins is obscure, we analyze GJ protein expression (Cx26/30) in human cochleae by using super-resolution structured illumination microscopy. At this resolution, the Cx26 and Cx30 proteins were visible as separate plaques, rather than being co-localized in heterotypic channels, as previously suggested. The Cx26 and Cx30 proteins thus seem not to be co-expressed but to form closely associated assemblies of GJ plaques. These results could assist in the development of strategies to treat genetic hearing loss in the future.