The Mechanosensory Transduction Machinery in Inner Ear Hair Cells

Annu Rev Biophys. 2021 May 6;50:31-51. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biophys-062420-081842. Epub 2020 Dec 7.


Sound-induced mechanical stimuli are detected by elaborate mechanosensory transduction (MT) machinery in highly specialized hair cells of the inner ear. Genetic studies of inherited deafness in the past decades have uncovered several molecular constituents of the MT complex, and intense debate has surrounded the molecular identity of the pore-forming subunits. How the MT components function in concert in response to physical stimulation is not fully understood. In this review, we summarize and discuss multiple lines of evidence supporting the hypothesis that transmembrane channel-like 1 is a long-sought MT channel subunit. We also review specific roles of other components of the MT complex, including protocadherin 15, cadherin 23, lipoma HMGIC fusion partner-like 5, transmembrane inner ear, calcium and integrin-binding family member 2, and ankyrins. Based on these recent advances, we propose a unifying theory of hair cell MT that may reconcile most of the functional discoveries obtained to date. Finally, we discuss key questions that need to be addressed for a comprehensive understanding of hair cell MT at molecular and atomic levels.

Keywords: MET; TMC1; deafness; hair cells; hearing; ion channel; mechanotransduction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / cytology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Calcium