Molecular basis of human Usher syndrome: deciphering the meshes of the Usher protein network provides insights into the pathomechanisms of the Usher disease

Exp Eye Res. 2006 Jul;83(1):97-119. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2005.11.010. Epub 2006 Mar 20.


Usher syndrome (USH) is the most frequent cause of combined deaf-blindness in man. It is clinically and genetically heterogeneous and at least 12 chromosomal loci are assigned to three clinical USH types, namely USH1A-G, USH2A-C, USH3A (Davenport, S.L.H., Omenn, G.S., 1977. The heterogeneity of Usher syndrome. Vth Int. Conf. Birth Defects, Montreal; Petit, C., 2001. Usher syndrome: from genetics to pathogenesis. Annu. Rev. Genomics Hum. Genet. 2, 271-297). Mutations in USH type 1 genes cause the most severe form of USH. In USH1 patients, congenital deafness is combined with a pre-pubertal onset of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and severe vestibular dysfunctions. Those with USH2 have moderate to severe congenital hearing loss, non-vestibular dysfunction and a later onset of RP. USH3 is characterized by variable RP and vestibular dysfunction combined with progressive hearing loss. The gene products of eight identified USH genes belong to different protein classes and families. There are five known USH1 molecules: the molecular motor myosin VIIa (USH1B); the two cell-cell adhesion cadherin proteins, cadherin 23 (USH1D) and protocadherin 15, (USH1F) and the scaffold proteins, harmonin (USH1C) and SANS (USH1G). In addition, two USH2 genes and one USH3A gene have been identified. The two USH2 genes code for the transmembrane protein USH2A, also termed USH2A ("usherin") and the G-protein-coupled 7-transmembrane receptor VLGR1b (USH2C), respectively, whereas the USH3A gene encodes clarin-1, a member of the clarin family which exhibits 4-transmembrane domains. Molecular analysis of USH1 protein function revealed that all five USH1 proteins are integrated into a protein network via binding to PDZ domains in the USH1C protein harmonin. Furthermore, this scaffold function of harmonin is supported by the USH1G protein SANS. Recently, we have shown that the USH2 proteins USH2A and VLGR1b as well as the candidate for USH2B, the sodium bicarbonate co-transporter NBC3, are also integrated into this USH protein network. In the inner ear, these interactions are essential for the differentiation of hair cell stereocilia but may also participate in the mechano-electrical signal transduction and the synaptic function of maturated hair cells. In the retina, the co-expression of all USH1 and USH2 proteins at the synapse of photoreceptor cells indicates that they are organized in an USH protein network there. The identification of the USH protein network indicates a common pathophysiological pathway in USH. Dysfunction or absence of any of the molecules in the mutual "interactome" related to the USH disease may lead to disruption of the network causing senso-neuronal degeneration in the inner ear and the retina, the clinical symptoms of USH.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cadherin Related Proteins
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Deafness / congenital
  • Deafness / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dyneins / genetics
  • Dyneins / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Microtubule Proteins / genetics
  • Microtubule Proteins / metabolism
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Myosin VIIa
  • Myosins / genetics
  • Myosins / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Retinal Degeneration / genetics
  • Usher Syndromes / genetics*
  • Usher Syndromes / metabolism
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiopathology


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • CDH23 protein, human
  • CDHR15, human
  • CLRN1 protein, human
  • Cadherin Related Proteins
  • Cadherins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • MYO7A protein, human
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Microtubule Proteins
  • Myosin VIIa
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • USH1C protein, human
  • USH1G protein, human
  • USH2A protein, human
  • Myosins
  • Dyneins