Loss of sensory hair cells causes permanent hearing and balance deficits in humans and other mammals, but for nonmammals such deficits are temporary. Nonmammals recover hearing and balance sensitivity after supporting cells proliferate and differentiate into replacement hair cells. Evidence of mechanical differences between those sensory epithelia and their supporting cells prompted us to investigate whether the capacity to activate YAP, an effector in the mechanosensitive Hippo pathway, correlates with regenerative capacity in acceleration-sensing utricles of chickens and mice of both sexes. After hair cell ablation, YAP accumulated in supporting cell nuclei in chicken utricles and promoted regenerative proliferation, but YAP remained cytoplasmic and little proliferation occurred in mouse utricles. YAP localization in supporting cells was also more sensitive to shape change and inhibition of MST1/2 in chicken utricles than in mouse utricles. Genetic manipulations showed that in vivo expression of the YAP-S127A variant caused robust proliferation of neonatal mouse supporting cells, which produced progeny that expressed hair cell markers, but proliferative responses declined postnatally. Expression of YAP-5SA, which more effectively evades inhibitory phosphorylation, resulted in TEAD-dependent proliferation of striolar supporting cells, even in adult utricles. Conditional deletion of LATS1/2 kinases abolished the inhibitory phosphorylation of endogenous YAP and led to striolar proliferation in adult mouse utricles. The findings suggest that damage overcomes inhibitory Hippo signaling and facilitates regenerative proliferation in nonmammalian utricles, whereas constitutive LATS1/2 kinase activity suppresses YAP-TEAD signaling in mammalian utricles and contributes to maintaining the proliferative quiescence that appears to underlie the permanence of sensory deficits.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Loud sounds, ototoxic drugs, infections, and aging kill sensory hair cells in the ear, causing irreversible hearing loss and balance deficits for millions. In nonmammals, damage evokes shape changes in supporting cells, which can divide and regenerate hair cells. Such shape changes are limited in mammalian ears, where supporting cells develop E-cadherin-rich apical junctions reinforced by robust F-actin bands, and the cells fail to divide. Here, we find that damage readily activates YAP in supporting cells within balance epithelia of chickens, but not mice. Deleting LATS kinases or expressing YAP variants that evade LATS-mediated inhibitory phosphorylation induces proliferation in supporting cells of adult mice. YAP signaling eventually may be harnessed to overcome proliferative quiescence that limits regeneration in mammalian ears.
Keywords: Hippo; LATS; YAP; hair cell; regeneration; utricle.
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