Otitis media in sperm-associated antigen 6 (Spag6)-deficient mice

PLoS One. 2014 Nov 13;9(11):e112879. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0112879. eCollection 2014.


Mammalian SPAG6 protein is localized to the axoneme central apparatus, and it is required for normal flagella and cilia motility. Recent studies demonstrated that the protein also regulates ciliogenesis and cilia polarity in the epithelial cells of brain ventricles and trachea. Motile cilia are also present in the epithelial cells of the middle ear and Eustachian tubes, where the ciliary system participates in the movement of serous fluid and mucus in the middle ear. Cilia defects are associated with otitis media (OM), presumably due to an inability to efficiently transport fluid, mucus and particles including microorganisms. We investigated the potential role of SPAG6 in the middle ear and Eustachian tubes by studying mice with a targeted mutation in the Spag6 gene. SPAG6 is expressed in the ciliated cells of middle ear epithelial cells. The orientation of the ciliary basal feet was random in the middle ear epithelial cells of Spag6-deficient mice, and there was an associated disrupted localization of the planar cell polarity (PCP) protein, FZD6. These features are associated with disordered cilia orientation, confirmed by scanning electron microscopy, which leads to uncoordinated cilia beating. The Spag6 mutant mice were also prone to develop OM. However, there were no significant differences in bacterial populations, epithelial goblet cell density, mucin expression and Eustachian tube angle between the mutant and wild-type mice, suggesting that OM was due to accumulation of fluid and mucus secondary to the ciliary dysfunction. Our studies demonstrate a role for Spag6 in the pathogenesis of OM in mice, possibly through its role in the regulation of cilia/basal body polarity through the PCP-dependent mechanisms in the middle ear and Eustachian tubes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Bodies / metabolism*
  • Basal Bodies / ultrastructure
  • Cilia / genetics
  • Cilia / metabolism
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Ear, Middle / metabolism*
  • Ear, Middle / ultrastructure
  • Eustachian Tube / metabolism*
  • Eustachian Tube / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Goblet Cells / metabolism*
  • Goblet Cells / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microtubule Proteins / deficiency*
  • Otitis Media / genetics
  • Otitis Media / metabolism*
  • Otitis Media / pathology


  • Microtubule Proteins
  • SPAG6 protein, mouse