Background: Inflammation of the middle ear (otitis media) is very common and can lead to serious complications if not resolved. Genetic studies suggest an inherited component, but few of the genes that contribute to this condition are known. Mouse mutants have contributed significantly to the identification of genes predisposing to otitis media
Results: The dearisch mouse mutant is an ENU-induced mutant detected by its impaired Preyer reflex (ear flick in response to sound). Auditory brainstem responses revealed raised thresholds from as early as three weeks old. Pedigree analysis suggested a dominant but partially penetrant mode of inheritance. The middle ear of dearisch mutants shows a thickened mucosa and cellular effusion suggesting chronic otitis media with effusion with superimposed acute infection. The inner ear, including the sensory hair cells, appears normal. Due to the low penetrance of the phenotype, normal backcross mapping of the mutation was not possible. Exome sequencing was therefore employed to identify a non-conservative tyrosine to cysteine (Y71C) missense mutation in the Islet1 gene, Isl1(Drsh). Isl1 is expressed in the normal middle ear mucosa. The findings suggest the Isl1(Drsh) mutation is likely to predispose carriers to otitis media.
Conclusions: Dearisch, Isl1(Drsh), represents the first point mutation in the mouse Isl1 gene and suggests a previously unrecognized role for this gene. It is also the first recorded exome sequencing of the C3HeB/FeJ background relevant to many ENU-induced mutants. Most importantly, the power of exome resequencing to identify ENU-induced mutations without a mapped gene locus is illustrated.