Usher syndrome: from genetics to pathogenesis

Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2001;2:271-97. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genom.2.1.271.


Usher syndrome (USH) is defined by the association of sensorineural deafness and visual impairment due to retinitis pigmentosa. The syndrome has three distinct clinical subtypes, referred to as USH1, USH2, and USH3. Each subtype is genetically heterogeneous, and 12 loci have been detected so far. Four genes have been identified, namely, USH1B, USH1C, USH1D, and USH2A. USH1B, USH1C, and USH1D encode an unconventional myosin (myosin VIIA), a PDZ domain-containing protein (harmonin), and a cadherin-like protein (cadherin-23), respectively. Mutations of these genes cause primary defects of the sensory cells in the inner ear, and probably also in the retina. In the inner ear, the USH1 genes, I propose, are involved in the same signaling pathway, which may control development and/or maintenance of the hair bundles of sensory cells via an adhesion force (a) at the junctions between these cells and supporting cells and (b) at the level of the lateral links that interconnect the stereocilia. In contrast, the molecular pathogenesis of USH2A, which is owing to a defect of a novel extracellular matrix protein, is likely to be different from that of USH1.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Deafness / classification
  • Deafness / genetics*
  • Deafness / pathology
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / classification
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / genetics*
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / pathology
  • Syndrome