Diaphanous homolog 3 (Diap3) overexpression causes progressive hearing loss and inner hair cell defects in a transgenic mouse model of human deafness

PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56520. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056520. Epub 2013 Feb 18.


We previously demonstrated that a mutation in the 5' untranslated region of Diaphanous homolog 3 (DIAPH3) results in 2 to 3-fold overexpression of the gene, leading to a form of delayed onset, progressive human deafness known as AUNA1 (auditory neuropathy, nonsyndromic, autosomal dominant, 1). To investigate the mechanism of deafness, we generated two lines of transgenic mice overexpressing Diap3, the murine ortholog of DIAPH3, on an FVB/NJ background. Line 771 exhibits a relatively mild 20 dB hearing loss at 12 kHz at 4 and 8 weeks of age, progressing to 40 dB and 60 dB losses at 16 and 24 weeks, respectively, at 12 and 24 kHz. Line 924 shows no hearing loss at 4 or 8 weeks, but manifests 35 and 50 dB threshold shifts at 16 and 24 weeks, respectively, at both 12 and 24 kHz. Notably, mice from the two transgenic lines retain distortion product otoacoustic emissions, indicative of normal cochlear outer hair cell (OHC) function despite elevation of auditory thresholds. Scanning electron microscopy of the organ of Corti demonstrates striking anomalies of the inner hair cell (IHC) stereocilia, while OHCs are essentially intact. Over time, IHCs of both lines develop elongated stereocilia that appear fused with neighboring stereocilia, in parallel to the time course of hearing loss in each line. Furthermore, we observe significant reduction in the number of IHC ribbon synapses over 24 weeks in both lines, although this reduction does not correlate temporally with onset and progression of hearing loss or stereociliary anomalies. In summary, overexpression of wild-type Diap3 in two lines of transgenic mice results in hearing loss that recapitulates human AUNA1 deafness. These findings suggest an essential role of Diap3 in regulating assembly and/or maintenance of actin filaments in IHC stereocilia, as well as a potential role at the IHC ribbon synapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Deafness / genetics*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Expression*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / metabolism*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / pathology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / ultrastructure
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Outer / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics*
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Stereocilia / pathology
  • Stereocilia / ultrastructure
  • Transgenes


  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Dia2 protein, mouse
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase