Expression and function of pannexins in the inner ear and hearing

BMC Cell Biol. 2016 May 24;17 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):16. doi: 10.1186/s12860-016-0095-7.


Pannexin (Panx) is a gene family encoding gap junction proteins in vertebrates. So far, three isoforms (Panx1, 2 and 3) have been identified. All of three Panx isoforms express in the cochlea with distinct expression patterns. Panx1 expresses in the cochlea extensively, including the spiral limbus, the organ of Corti, and the cochlear lateral wall, whereas Panx2 and Panx3 restrict to the basal cells of the stria vascularis in the lateral wall and the cochlear bony structure, respectively. However, there is no pannexin expression in auditory sensory hair cells. Recent studies demonstrated that like connexin gap junction gene, Panx1 deficiency causes hearing loss. Panx1 channels dominate ATP release in the cochlea. Deletion of Panx1 abolishes ATP release in the cochlea and reduces endocochlear potential (EP), auditory receptor current/potential, and active cochlear amplification. Panx1 deficiency in the cochlea also activates caspase-3 cell apoptotic pathway leading to cell degeneration. These new findings suggest that pannexins have a critical role in the cochlea in regard to hearing. However, detailed information about pannexin function in the cochlea and Panx mutation induced hearing loss still remain largely undetermined. Further studies are required.

Keywords: ATP release; Active cochlear amplification; Cell degeneration; Endocochlear potential; Hearing loss; Inner ear; Pannexin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cochlea / metabolism
  • Cochlea / pathology
  • Deafness / metabolism
  • Ear, Inner / metabolism*
  • Hearing*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / deficiency
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins