Repressor element 1-silencing transcription factor (REST) is a transcriptional repressor that recognizes neuron-restrictive silencer elements in the mammalian genomes in a tissue- and cell-specific manner. The identity of REST target genes and molecular details of how REST regulates them are emerging. We performed conditional null deletion of Rest (cKO), mainly restricted to murine hair cells (HCs) and auditory neurons (aka spiral ganglion neurons [SGNs]). Null inactivation of full-length REST did not affect the development of normal HCs and SGNs but manifested as progressive hearing loss in adult mice. We found that the inactivation of REST resulted in an increased abundance of Kv7.4 channels at the transcript, protein, and functional levels. Specifically, we found that SGNs and HCs from Rest cKO mice displayed increased Kv7.4 expression and augmented Kv7 currents; SGN's excitability was also significantly reduced. Administration of a compound with Kv7.4 channel activator activity, fasudil, recapitulated progressive hearing loss in mice. In contrast, inhibition of the Kv7 channels by XE991 rescued the auditory phenotype of Rest cKO mice. Previous studies identified some loss-of-function mutations within the Kv7.4-coding gene, Kcnq4, as a causative factor for progressive hearing loss in mice and humans. Thus, the findings reveal that a critical homeostatic Kv7.4 channel level is required for proper auditory functions.
Keywords: hearing loss; human; mouse; neuroscience; repressor element.
© 2022, Zhang et al.