Protocadherin-15 (Pcdh15) is a component of the tip-links, the extracellular filaments that gate hair cell mechano-electrical transduction channels in the inner ear. There are three Pcdh15 splice isoforms (CD1, CD2 and CD3), which only differ by their cytoplasmic domains; they are thought to function redundantly in mechano-electrical transduction during hair-bundle development, but whether any of these isoforms composes the tip-link in mature hair cells remains unknown. By immunolabelling and both morphological and electrophysiological analyses of post-natal hair cell-specific conditional knockout mice (Pcdh15ex38-fl/ex38-fl Myo15-cre+/-) that lose only this isoform after normal hair-bundle development, we show that Pcdh15-CD2 is an essential component of tip-links in mature auditory hair cells. The finding, in the homozygous or compound heterozygous state, of a PCDH15 frameshift mutation (p.P1515Tfs*4) that affects only Pcdh15-CD2, in profoundly deaf children from two unrelated families, extends this conclusion to humans. These results provide key information for identification of new components of the mature auditory mechano-electrical transduction machinery. This will also serve as a basis for the development of gene therapy for deafness caused by PCDH15 defects.
Keywords: auditory mechano‐electrical transduction; deafness; protocadherin‐15; stereocilia; tip‐link.
© 2014 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license.