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1.  Ectopic Expression of Activated Notch or SOX2 Reveals Similar and Unique Roles in the Development of the Sensory Cell Progenitors in the Mammalian Inner Ear 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(41):16146-16157.
Hearing impairment or vestibular dysfunction in humans often results from a permanent loss of critical cell types in the sensory regions of the inner ear, including hair cells, supporting cells, or cochleovestibular neurons. These important cell types arise from a common sensory or neurosensory progenitor, although little is known about how these progenitors are specified. Studies have shown that Notch signaling and the transcription factor Sox2 are required for the development of these lineages. Previously we and others demonstrated that ectopic activation of Notch can direct nonsensory cells to adopt a sensory fate, indicating a role for Notch in early specification events. Here, we explore the relationship between Notch and SOX2 by ectopically activating these factors in nonsensory regions of the mouse cochlea, and demonstrate that, similar to Notch, SOX2 can specify sensory progenitors, consistent with a role downstream of Notch signaling. However, we also show that Notch has a unique role in promoting the proliferation of the sensory progenitors. We further demonstrate that Notch can only induce ectopic sensory regions within a certain time window of development, and that the ectopic hair cells display specialized stereocilia bundles similar to endogenous hair cells. These results demonstrate that Notch and SOX2 can both drive the sensory program in nonsensory cells, indicating these factors may be useful in cell replacement strategies in the inner ear.
PMCID: PMC3792456  PMID: 24107947
2.  Linkage Study and Exome Sequencing Identify a BDP1 Mutation Associated with Hereditary Hearing Loss 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e80323.
Nonsyndromic Hereditary Hearing Loss is a common disorder accounting for at least 60% of prelingual deafness. GJB2 gene mutations, GJB6 deletion, and the A1555G mitochondrial mutation play a major role worldwide in causing deafness, but there is a high degree of genetic heterogeneity and many genes involved in deafness have not yet been identified. Therefore, there remains a need to search for new causative mutations. In this study, a combined strategy using both linkage analysis and sequencing identified a new mutation causing hearing loss. Linkage analysis identified a region of 40 Mb on chromosome 5q13 (LOD score 3.8) for which exome sequencing data revealed a mutation (c.7873 T>G leading to p.*2625Gluext*11) in the BDP1 gene (B double prime 1, subunit of RNA polymerase III transcription initiation factor IIIB) in patients from a consanguineous Qatari family of second degree, showing bilateral, post-lingual, sensorineural moderate to severe hearing impairment. The mutation disrupts the termination codon of the transcript resulting in an elongation of 11 residues of the BDP1 protein. This elongation does not contain any known motif and is not conserved across species. Immunohistochemistry studies carried out in the mouse inner ear showed Bdp1 expression within the endothelial cells in the stria vascularis, as well as in mesenchyme-derived cells surrounding the cochlear duct. The identification of the BDP1 mutation increases our knowledge of the molecular bases of Nonsyndromic Hereditary Hearing Loss and provides new opportunities for the diagnosis and treatment of this disease in the Qatari population.
PMCID: PMC3846559  PMID: 24312468
3.  Correction: Mcph1-Deficient Mice Reveal a Role for MCPH1 in Otitis Media 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):10.1371/annotation/fadb7426-df05-4ec5-a0ba-21981295b0eb.
PMCID: PMC3692952
4.  Mice deficient in H+-ATPase a4 subunit have severe hearing impairment associated with enlarged endolymphatic compartments within the inner ear 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2012;6(2):434-442.
Mutations in the ATP6V0A4 gene lead to autosomal recessive distal renal tubular acidosis in patients, who often show sensorineural hearing impairment. A first Atp6v0a4 knockout mouse model that recapitulates the loss of H+-ATPase function seen in humans has been generated and recently reported (Norgett et al., 2012). Here, we present the first detailed analysis of the structure and function of the auditory system in Atp6v0a4−/− knockout mice. Measurements of the auditory brainstem response (ABR) showed significantly elevated thresholds in homozygous mutant mice, which indicate severe hearing impairment. Heterozygote thresholds were normal. Analysis of paint-filled inner ears and sections from E16.5 embryos revealed a marked expansion of cochlear and endolymphatic ducts in Atp6v0a4−/− mice. A regulatory link between Atp6v0a4, Foxi1 and Pds has been reported and we found that the endolymphatic sac of Atp6v0a4−/− mice expresses both Foxi1 and Pds, which suggests a downstream position of Atp6v0a4. These mutants also showed a lack of endocochlear potential, suggesting a functional defect of the stria vascularis on the lateral wall of the cochlear duct. However, the main K+ channels involved in the generation of endocochlear potential, Kcnj10 and Kcnq1, are strongly expressed in Atp6v0a4−/− mice. Our results lead to a better understanding of the role of this proton pump in hearing function.
PMCID: PMC3597025  PMID: 23065636
5.  The Role of Sphingosine-1-phosphate Transporter Spns2 in Immune System Function 
Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) is lipid messenger involved in the regulation of embryonic development, immune system functions, and many other physiological processes. However the mechanisms of S1P transport across cellular membranes remain poorly understood with several ATP-binding cassette family members and the spinster 2 (Spns2) member of the major facilitator superfamily known to mediate S1P transport in cell culture. Spns2 was also shown to control S1P activities in zebrafish in vivo and to play a critical role in zebrafish cardiovascular development. However the in vivo roles of Spns2 in mammals and its involvement in the different S1P-dependent physiological processes have not been investigated. Here we characterized Spns2-null mouse line carrying the Spns2tm1a(KOMP)Wtsi allele (Spns2tm1a). The Spns2tm1a/tm1a animals were viable, indicating a divergence in Spns2 function from its zebrafish orthologue. However the immunological phenotype of the Spns2tm1a/tm1a mice closely mimicked the phenotypes of partial S1P deficiency and impaired S1P-dependent lymphocyte trafficking, with a depletion of lymphocytes in circulation, an increase in mature single-positive T cells in the thymus, and a selective reduction in mature B cells in the spleen and bone marrow. Spns2 activity in the non-hematopoietic cells was critical for normal lymphocyte development and localization. Overall Spns2tm1a/tm1a resulted in impaired humoral immune responses to immunization. This work thus demonstrated a physiological role for Spns2 in mammalian immune system functions but not in cardiovascular development. Other components of the S1P signaling network are investigated as drug targets for immunosuppressive therapy, but the selective action of Spns2 may present an advantage in this regard.
PMCID: PMC3381845  PMID: 22664872
Spns2 (spinster 2); sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P); lymphocyte egress
6.  Omi, a recessive mutation on chromosome 10, is a novel allele of Ostm1 
Mammalian Genome  2012;24(1-2):44-53.
Large-scale N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) mutagenesis has provided many rodent models for human disease. Here we describe the initial characterization and mapping of a recessive mutation that leads to degeneration of the incisors, failure of molars to erupt, a grey coat colour, and mild osteopetrosis. We mapped the omi mutation to chromosome 10 between D10Mit214 and D10Mit194. The Ostm1 gene is a likely candidate gene in this region and the grey-lethal allele, Ostm1gl, and omi mutations fail to complement each other. We show that om/om mice have reduced levels of Ostm1 protein. To date we have not been able to identify the causative mutation. We propose that omi is a novel hypomorphic mutation affecting Ostm1 expression, potentially in a regulatory element.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00335-012-9438-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3560959  PMID: 23160729
7.  Specific expression of Kcna10, Pxn and Odf2 in the organ of Corti 
Gene Expression Patterns  2012;12(5-6):172-179.
► We studied the expression of Pxn, Kcna10 and Odf2 in the developing mouse inner ear. ► We covered several ages between E14.5 and P5, and also looked at adults. ► Pxn is a focal adhesion protein expressed strongly in pillar cells. ► Kcna10 is a potassium channel expressed in hair cells. ► Odf2 (Cenexin) marks dendrites extending to and contacting hair cells.
The development of the organ of Corti and the highly specialized cells required for hearing involves a multitude of genes, many of which remain unknown. Here we describe the expression pattern of three genes not previously studied in the inner ear in mice at a range of ages both embryonic and early postnatal. Kcna10, a tetrameric Shaker-like potassium channel, is expressed strongly in the hair cells themselves. Odf2, as its centriolar isoform Cenexin, marks the dendrites extending to and contacting hair cells, and Pxn, a focal adhesion scaffold protein, is most strongly expressed in pillar cells during the ages studied. The roles of these genes are yet to be elucidated, but their specific expression patterns imply potential functional significance in the inner ear.
PMCID: PMC3368262  PMID: 22446089
Odf2; Cenexin; Pxn; Kcna10; Inner ear
8.  Auditory Function in the Tc1 Mouse Model of Down Syndrome Suggests a Limited Region of Human Chromosome 21 Involved in Otitis Media 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31433.
Down syndrome is one of the most common congenital disorders leading to a wide range of health problems in humans, including frequent otitis media. The Tc1 mouse carries a significant part of human chromosome 21 (Hsa21) in addition to the full set of mouse chromosomes and shares many phenotypes observed in humans affected by Down syndrome with trisomy of chromosome 21. However, it is unknown whether Tc1 mice exhibit a hearing phenotype and might thus represent a good model for understanding the hearing loss that is common in Down syndrome. In this study we carried out a structural and functional assessment of hearing in Tc1 mice. Auditory brainstem response (ABR) measurements in Tc1 mice showed normal thresholds compared to littermate controls and ABR waveform latencies and amplitudes were equivalent to controls. The gross anatomy of the middle and inner ears was also similar between Tc1 and control mice. The physiological properties of cochlear sensory receptors (inner and outer hair cells: IHCs and OHCs) were investigated using single-cell patch clamp recordings from the acutely dissected cochleae. Adult Tc1 IHCs exhibited normal resting membrane potentials and expressed all K+ currents characteristic of control hair cells. However, the size of the large conductance (BK) Ca2+ activated K+ current (IK,f), which enables rapid voltage responses essential for accurate sound encoding, was increased in Tc1 IHCs. All physiological properties investigated in OHCs were indistinguishable between the two genotypes. The normal functional hearing and the gross structural anatomy of the middle and inner ears in the Tc1 mouse contrast to that observed in the Ts65Dn model of Down syndrome which shows otitis media. Genes that are trisomic in Ts65Dn but disomic in Tc1 may predispose to otitis media when an additional copy is active.
PMCID: PMC3279367  PMID: 22348087
9.  Genetics, Gene Expression and Bioinformatics of the Pituitary Gland 
Hormone research  2009;71(Suppl 2):101-115.
Genetic cases of congenital pituitary hormone deficiency are common and many are caused by transcription factor defects. Mouse models with orthologous mutations are invaluable for uncovering the molecular mechanisms that lead to problems in organ development and typical patient characteristics. We are using mutant mice defective in the transcription factors PROP1 and POU1F1 for gene expression profiling to identify target genes for these critical transcription factors and candidates for cases of pituitary hormone deficiency of unknown etiology. These studies reveal critical roles for Wnt signalling pathways including the TCF/LEF transcription factors and interacting proteins of the groucho family, bone morphogenetic proteins antagonists, and targets of notch signalling. Current studies are investigating roles of novel homeobox genes and pathways that regulate the transition from proliferation to differentiation, cell adhesion and cell migration.
Pituitary adenomas are a common human health problem, yet most cases are sporadic, necessitating alternative approaches to traditional Mendelian genetic studies. Mouse models of adenoma formation offer the opportunity for gene expression profiling during progressive stages of hyperplasia, adenoma and tumorigenesis. This approach holds promise for identification of relevant pathways and candidate genes as risk factors for adenoma formation, understanding mechanisms of progression, and identifying drug targets and clinically relevant biomarkers.
PMCID: PMC3140954  PMID: 19407506
cell proliferation; apoptosis; transcription factors; Prop1; Emx2
10.  The Usher 1B protein, MYO7A, is required for normal localization and function of the visual retinoid cycle enzyme, RPE65 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(13):2560-2570.
Mutations in the MYO7A gene cause a deaf-blindness disorder, known as Usher syndrome 1B.  In the retina, the majority of MYO7A is in the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE), where many of the reactions of the visual retinoid cycle take place.  We have observed that the retinas of Myo7a-mutant mice are resistant to acute light damage. In exploring the basis of this resistance, we found that Myo7a-mutant mice have lower levels of RPE65, the RPE isomerase that has a key role in the retinoid cycle.  We show for the first time that RPE65 normally undergoes a light-dependent translocation to become more concentrated in the central region of the RPE cells.  This translocation requires MYO7A, so that, in Myo7a-mutant mice, RPE65 is partly mislocalized in the light.  RPE65 is degraded more quickly in Myo7a-mutant mice, perhaps due to its mislocalization, providing a plausible explanation for its lower levels.  Following a 50–60% photobleach, Myo7a-mutant retinas exhibited increased all-trans-retinyl ester levels during the initial stages of dark recovery, consistent with a deficiency in RPE65 activity.  Lastly, MYO7A and RPE65 were co-immunoprecipitated from RPE cell lysate by antibodies against either of the proteins, and the two proteins were partly colocalized, suggesting a direct or indirect interaction.  Together, the results support a role for MYO7A in the translocation of RPE65, illustrating the involvement of a molecular motor in the spatiotemporal organization of the retinoid cycle in vision.
PMCID: PMC3110002  PMID: 21493626
11.  A missense mutation in Fgfr1 causes ear and skull defects in hush puppy mice 
Mammalian Genome  2011;22(5-6):290-305.
The hush puppy mouse mutant has been shown previously to have skull and outer, middle, and inner ear defects, and an increase in hearing threshold. The fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (Fgfr1) gene is located in the region of chromosome 8 containing the mutation. Sequencing of the gene in hush puppy heterozygotes revealed a missense mutation in the kinase domain of the protein (W691R). Homozygotes were found to die during development, at approximately embryonic day 8.5, and displayed a phenotype similar to null mutants. Reverse transcription PCR indicated a decrease in Fgfr1 transcript in heterozygotes and homozygotes. Generation of a construct containing the mutation allowed the function of the mutated receptor to be studied. Immunocytochemistry showed that the mutant receptor protein was present at the cell membrane, suggesting normal expression and trafficking. Measurements of changes in intracellular calcium concentration showed that the mutated receptor could not activate the IP3 pathway, in contrast to the wild-type receptor, nor could it initiate activation of the Ras/MAP kinase pathway. Thus, the hush puppy mutation in fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 appears to cause a loss of receptor function. The mutant protein appears to have a dominant negative effect, which could be due to it dimerising with the wild-type protein and inhibiting its activity, thus further reducing the levels of functional protein. A dominant modifier, Mhspy, which reduces the effect of the hush puppy mutation on pinna and stapes development, has been mapped to the distal end of chromosome 7 and may show imprinting.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00335-011-9324-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3099004  PMID: 21479780
12.  The human deafness-associated connexin 30 T5M mutation causes mild hearing loss and reduces biochemical coupling among cochlear non-sensory cells in knock-in mice 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(24):4759-4773.
Mutations in the GJB2 and GJB6 genes, respectively, coding for connexin26 (Cx26) and connexin30 (Cx30) proteins, are the most common cause for prelingual non-syndromic deafness in humans. In the inner ear, Cx26 and Cx30 are expressed in different non-sensory cell types, where they largely co-localize and may form heteromeric gap junction channels. Here, we describe the generation and characterization of a mouse model for human bilateral middle/high-frequency hearing loss based on the substitution of an evolutionarily conserved threonine by a methionine residue at position 5 near the N-terminus of Cx30 (Cx30T5M). The mutation was inserted in the mouse genome by homologous recombination in mouse embryonic stem cells. Expression of the mutated Cx30T5M protein in these transgenic mice is under the control of the endogenous Cx30 promoter and was analysed via activation of the lacZ reporter gene. When probed by auditory brainstem recordings, Cx30T5M/T5M mice exhibited a mild, but significant increase in their hearing thresholds of about 15 dB at all frequencies. Immunolabelling with antibodies to Cx26 or Cx30 suggested normal location of these proteins in the adult inner ear, but western blot analysis showed significantly down-regulated the expression levels of Cx26 and Cx30. In the developing cochlea, electrical coupling, probed by dual patch-clamp recordings, was normal. However, transfer of the fluorescent tracer calcein between cochlear non-sensory cells was reduced, as was intercellular Ca2+ signalling due to spontaneous ATP release from connexin hemichannels. Our findings link hearing loss to decreased biochemical coupling due to the point-mutated Cx30 in mice.
PMCID: PMC2989887  PMID: 20858605
13.  Role of myosin VIIa and Rab27a in the motility and localization of RPE melanosomes 
Journal of cell science  2004;117(Pt 26):6473-6483.
Myosin VIIa functions in the outer retina, and loss of this function causes human blindness in Usher syndrome type 1B (USH1B). In mice with mutant Myo7a, melanosomes in the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) are distributed abnormally. In this investigation we detected many proteins in RPE cells that could potentially participate in melanosome transport, but of those tested, only myosin VIIa and Rab27a were found to be required for normal distribution. Two other expressed proteins, melanophilin and myosin Va, both of which are required for normal melanosome distribution in melanocytes, were not required in RPE, despite the association of myosin Va with the RPE melanosome fraction. Both myosin VIIa and myosin Va were immunodetected broadly in sections of the RPE, overlapping with a region of apical filamentous actin. Some 70–80% of the myosin VIIa in RPE cells was detected on melanosome membranes by both subcellular fractionation of RPE cells and quantitative immunoelectron microscopy, consistent with a role for myosin VIIa in melanosome motility. Time-lapse microscopy of melanosomes in primary cultures of mouse RPE cells demonstrated that the melanosomes move in a saltatory manner, interrupting slow movements with short bursts of rapid movement (>1 µm/second). In RPE cells from Myo7a-null mice, both the slow and rapid movements still occurred, except that more melanosomes underwent rapid movements, and each movement extended approximately five times longer (and further). Hence, our studies demonstrate the presence of many potential effectors of melanosome motility and localization in the RPE, with a specific requirement for Rab27a and myosin VIIa, which function by transporting and constraining melanosomes within a region of filamentous actin. The presence of two distinct melanosome velocities in both control and Myo7a-null RPE cells suggests the involvement of at least two motors other than myosin VIIa in melanosome motility, most probably, a microtubule motor and myosin Va.
PMCID: PMC2942070  PMID: 15572405
Myosin VIIa; Myosin Va; Rab27a; Melanosome; Usher syndrome; Organelle motility
14.  MicroRNAs in mouse development and disease 
MicroRNAs, small non-coding RNAs which act as repressors of target genes, were discovered in 1993, and since then have been shown to play important roles in the development of numerous systems. Consistent with this role, they are also implicated in the pathogenesis of multiple diseases. Here we review the involvement of microRNAs in mouse development and disease, with particular reference to deafness as an example.
PMCID: PMC2938480  PMID: 20152923
MicroRNA; Mouse mutants; Disease models; Disease mechanisms
15.  Emx2 and early hair cell development in the mouse inner ear 
Developmental Biology  2010;340(2):547-556.
Emx2 is a homeodomain protein that plays a critical role in inner ear development. Homozygous null mice die at birth with a range of defects in the CNS, renal system and skeleton. The cochlea is shorter than normal with about 60% fewer auditory hair cells. It appears to lack outer hair cells and some supporting cells are either absent or fail to differentiate. Many of the hair cells differentiate in pairs and although their hair bundles develop normally their planar cell polarity is compromised. Measurements of cell polarity suggest that classic planar cell polarity molecules are not directly influenced by Emx2 and that polarity is compromised by developmental defects in the sensory precursor population or by defects in epithelial cues for cell alignment. Planar cell polarity is normal in the vestibular epithelia although polarity reversal across the striola is absent in both the utricular and saccular maculae. In contrast, cochlear hair cell polarity is disorganized. The expression domain for Bmp4 is expanded and Fgfr1 and Prox1 are expressed in fewer cells in the cochlear sensory epithelium of Emx2 null mice. We conclude that Emx2 regulates early developmental events that balance cell proliferation and differentiation in the sensory precursor population.
PMCID: PMC2877772  PMID: 20152827
Emx2; Planar cell polarity; Hair cell; Inner ear; Striola
16.  Study of smell and reproductive organs in a mouse model for CHARGE syndrome 
CHARGE syndrome is a multiple congenital anomaly syndrome characterised by Coloboma, Heart defects, Atresia of choanae, Retardation of growth and/or development, Genital hypoplasia, and Ear anomalies often associated with deafness. It is caused by heterozygous mutations in the CHD7 gene and shows a highly variable phenotype. Anosmia and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism occur in the majority of the CHARGE patients, but the underlying pathogenesis is unknown. Therefore, we studied the ability to smell and aspects of the reproductive system (reproductive performance, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons and anatomy of testes and uteri) in a mouse model for CHARGE syndrome, the whirligig mouse (Chd7Whi/+). We showed that Chromodomain Helicase DNA-binding protein 7 (Chd7) is expressed in brain areas involved in olfaction and reproduction during embryonic development. We observed poorer performance in the smell test in adult Chd7Whi/+ mice, secondary either to olfactory dysfunction or to balance disturbances. Olfactory bulb and reproductive organ abnormalities were observed in a proportion of Chd7Whi/+ mice. Hypothalamic GnRH neurons were slightly reduced in Chd7Whi/+ females and reproductive performance was slightly less in Chd7Whi/+ mice. This study shows that the penetrance of anosmia and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism is lower in Chd7Whi/+ mice than in CHARGE patients. Interestingly, many phenotypic features of the Chd7 mutation showed incomplete penetrance in our model mice, despite the use of inbred, genetically identical mice. This supports the theory that the extreme variability of the CHARGE phenotype in both humans and mice might be attributed to variations in the fetal microenvironment or to purely stochastic events.
PMCID: PMC2987182  PMID: 19809474
CHD7; Kallmann syndrome; anosmia; hypogonadotropic hypogonadism
17.  An ENU-induced mutation of miR-96 associated with progressive hearing loss in mice 
Nature genetics  2009;41(5):614-618.
Progressive hearing loss is common in the human population, but little is known about the molecular basis. We report a new ENU-induced mouse mutant, diminuendo, with a single base change in the seed region of Mirn96. Heterozygotes show progressive loss of hearing and hair cell anomalies, while homozygotes have no cochlear responses. Most microRNAs are believed to downregulate target genes by binding to specific sites on their mRNAs, so mutation of the seed should lead to target gene upregulation. Microarray analysis revealed 96 transcripts with significantly altered expression in homozygotes; notably, Slc26a5, oncomodulin, Gfi1, Ptprq and Pitpnm1 were downregulated. Hypergeometric p-value analysis showed hundreds of genes were upregulated in mutants. Different genes, with target sites complementary to the mutant seed, were downregulated. This is the first microRNA found associated with deafness, and diminuendo represents a model for understanding and potentially moderating progressive hair cell degeneration in hearing loss more generally.
PMCID: PMC2705913  PMID: 19363478
18.  Great vessel development requires biallelic expression of Chd7 and Tbx1 in pharyngeal ectoderm in mice  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(11):3301-3310.
Aortic arch artery patterning defects account for approximately 20% of congenital cardiovascular malformations and are observed frequently in velocardiofacial syndrome (VCFS). In the current study, we screened for chromosome rearrangements in patients suspected of VCFS, but who lacked a 22q11 deletion or TBX1 mutation. One individual displayed hemizygous CHD7, which encodes a chromodomain protein. CHD7 haploinsufficiency is the major cause of coloboma, heart defect, atresia choanae, retarded growth and development, genital hypoplasia, and ear anomalies/deafness (CHARGE) syndrome, but this patient lacked the major diagnostic features of coloboma and choanal atresia. Because a subset of CHARGE cases also display 22q11 deletions, we explored the embryological relationship between CHARGE and VCSF using mouse models. The hallmark of Tbx1 haploinsufficiency is hypo/aplasia of the fourth pharyngeal arch artery (PAA) at E10.5. Identical malformations were observed in Chd7 heterozygotes, with resulting aortic arch interruption at later stages. Other than Tbx1, Chd7 is the only gene reported to affect fourth PAA development by haploinsufficiency. Moreover, Tbx1+/–;Chd7+/– double heterozygotes demonstrated a synergistic interaction during fourth PAA, thymus, and ear morphogenesis. We could not rescue PAA morphogenesis by restoring neural crest Chd7 expression. Rather, biallelic expression of Chd7 and Tbx1 in the pharyngeal ectoderm was required for normal PAA development.
PMCID: PMC2769172  PMID: 19855134
19.  MyosinVIIa Interacts with Twinfilin-2 at the Tips of Mechanosensory Stereocilia in the Inner Ear 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e7097.
In vertebrates hearing is dependent upon the microvilli-like mechanosensory stereocilia and their length gradation. The staircase-like organization of the stereocilia bundle is dynamically maintained by variable actin turnover rates. Two unconventional myosins were previously implicated in stereocilia length regulation but the mechanisms of their action remain unknown. MyosinXVa is expressed in stereocilia tips at levels proportional to stereocilia length and its absence produces staircase-like bundles of very short stereocilia. MyosinVIIa localizes to the tips of the shorter stereocilia within bundles, and when absent, the stereocilia are abnormally long. We show here that myosinVIIa interacts with twinfilin-2, an actin binding protein, which inhibits actin polymerization at the barbed end of the filament, and that twinfilin localization in stereocilia overlaps with myosinVIIa. Exogenous expression of myosinVIIa in fibroblasts results in a reduced number of filopodia and promotes accumulation of twinfilin-2 at the filopodia tips. We hypothesize that the newly described interaction between myosinVIIa and twinfilin-2 is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of slower rates of actin turnover in shorter stereocilia, and that interplay between complexes of myosinVIIa/twinfilin-2 and myosinXVa/whirlin is responsible for stereocilia length gradation within the bundle staircase.
PMCID: PMC2743196  PMID: 19774077
20.  Usher syndromes due to MYO7A, PCDH15, USH2A or GPR98 mutations share retinal disease mechanism 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(15):2405-2415.
Usher syndrome (USH) is a genetically heterogeneous group of autosomal recessive deaf-blinding disorders. Pathophysiology leading to the blinding retinal degeneration in USH is uncertain. There is evidence for involvement of the photoreceptor cilium, photoreceptor synapse, the adjacent retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells, and the Crumbs protein complex, the latter implying developmental abnormalities in the retina. Testing hypotheses has been difficult in murine USH models because most do not show a retinal degeneration phenotype. We defined the retinal disease expression in vivo in human USH using optical imaging of the retina and visual function. In MYO7A (USH1B), results from young individuals or those at early stages indicated the photoreceptor was the first detectable site of disease. Later stages showed photoreceptor and RPE cell pathology. Mosaic retinas in Myo7a-deficient shaker1 mice supported the notion that the mutant photoreceptor phenotype was cell autonomous and not secondary to mutant RPE. Humans with PCDH15 (USH1F), USH2A or GPR98 (USH2C) had a similar retinal phenotype to MYO7A (USH1B). There was no evidence of photoreceptor synaptic dysfunction and no dysplastic phenotype as in CRB1 (Crumbs homologue1) retinopathy. The results point to the photoreceptor cell as the therapeutic target for USH treatment trials, such as MYO7A somatic gene replacement therapy.
PMCID: PMC2733815  PMID: 18463160
21.  The deaf mouse mutant whirler suggests a role for whirlin in actin filament dynamics and stereocilia development 
Stereocilia, finger-like projections forming the hair bundle on the apical surface of sensory hair cells in the cochlea, are responsible for mechanosensation and ultimately the perception of sound. The actin cytoskeleton of the stereocilia contains hundreds of tightly cross-linked parallel actin filaments in a paracrystalline array and it is vital for their function. Although several genes have been identified and associated with stereocilia development, the molecular mechanisms responsible for stereocilia growth, maintenance and organisation of the hair bundle have not been fully resolved. Here we provide further characterisation of the stereocilia of the whirler mouse mutant. We found that a lack of whirlin protein in whirler mutants results in short stereocilia with larger diameters without a corresponding increase in the number of actin filaments in inner hair cells. However, a decrease in the actin filament packing density was evident in the whirler mutant. The electron-density at the tip of each stereocilium was markedly patchy and irregular in the whirler mutants compared with a uniform band in controls. The outer hair cell stereocilia of the whirler homozygote also showed an increase in diameter and variable heights within bundles. The number of outer hair cell stereocilia was significantly reduced and the centre-to-centre spacing between the stereocilia was greater than in the wildtype. Our findings suggest that whirlin plays an important role in actin filament packing and dynamics during postnatal stereocilium elongation.
PMCID: PMC2682331  PMID: 17326148
stereocilia; actin filaments; deafness; whirlin; hair cells; inner ear; organ of Corti; cochlea
22.  Catweasel mice: A novel role for Six1 in sensory patch development and a model for branchio-oto-renal syndrome 
Developmental Biology  2009;328(2):285-296.
Large-scale mouse mutagenesis initiatives have provided new mouse mutants that are useful models of human deafness and vestibular dysfunction. Catweasel is a novel N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU)-induced mutation. Heterozygous catweasel mutant mice exhibit mild headtossing associated with a posterior crista defect. We mapped the catweasel mutation to a critical region of 13 Mb on chromosome 12 containing the Six1, -4 and -6 genes. We identified a basepair substitution in exon 1 of the Six1 gene that changes a conserved glutamic acid (E) at position 121 to a glycine (G) in the Six1 homeodomain. Cwe/Cwe animals lack Preyer and righting reflexes, display severe headshaking and have severely truncated cochlea and semicircular canals. Cwe/Cwe animals had very few hair cells in the utricle, but their ampullae and cochlea were devoid of any hair cells. Bmp4, Jag1 and Sox2 expression were largely absent at early stages of sensory development and NeuroD expression was reduced in the developing vestibulo-acoustic ganglion. Lastly we show that Six1 genetically interacts with Jag1. We propose that the catweasel phenotype is due to a hypomorphic mutation in Six1 and that catweasel mice are a suitable model for branchio-oto-renal syndrome. In addition Six1 has a pivotal role in early sensory patch development and may act in the same genetic pathway as Jag1.
PMCID: PMC2682643  PMID: 19389353
Six1; Mouse; BOR; Inner ear; Sensory patch; Hair cell; Kidney; Incus; Jag1
23.  Targeting of Slc25a21 Is Associated with Orofacial Defects and Otitis Media Due to Disrupted Expression of a Neighbouring Gene 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91807.
Homozygosity for Slc25a21tm1a(KOMP)Wtsi results in mice exhibiting orofacial abnormalities, alterations in carpal and rugae structures, hearing impairment and inflammation in the middle ear. In humans it has been hypothesised that the 2-oxoadipate mitochondrial carrier coded by SLC25A21 may be involved in the disease 2-oxoadipate acidaemia. Unexpectedly, no 2-oxoadipate acidaemia-like symptoms were observed in animals homozygous for Slc25a21tm1a(KOMP)Wtsi despite confirmation that this allele reduces Slc25a21 expression by 71.3%. To study the complete knockout, an allelic series was generated using the loxP and FRT sites typical of a Knockout Mouse Project allele. After removal of the critical exon and neomycin selection cassette, Slc25a21 knockout mice homozygous for the Slc25a21tm1b(KOMP)Wtsi and Slc25a21tm1d(KOMP)Wtsi alleles were phenotypically indistinguishable from wild-type. This led us to explore the genomic environment of Slc25a21 and to discover that expression of Pax9, located 3′ of the target gene, was reduced in homozygous Slc25a21tm1a(KOMP)Wtsi mice. We hypothesize that the presence of the selection cassette is the cause of the down regulation of Pax9 observed. The phenotypes we observed in homozygous Slc25a21tm1a(KOMP)Wtsi mice were broadly consistent with a hypomorphic Pax9 allele with the exception of otitis media and hearing impairment which may be a novel consequence of Pax9 down regulation. We explore the ramifications associated with this particular targeted mutation and emphasise the need to interpret phenotypes taking into consideration all potential underlying genetic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3958370  PMID: 24642684
24.  A Sall4 Mutant Mouse Model Useful for Studying the Role of Sall4 in Early Embryonic Development and Organogenesis 
SALL4 is a homologue of the Drosophila homeotic gene spalt, a zinc finger transcription factor, required for inner cell mass proliferation in early embryonic development. It also interacts with other transcription factors to control the development of the anorectal region, kidney, heart, limbs, and brain. Truncating mutations in SALL4 cause Okihiro syndrome, manifest as Duane anomaly, radial ray defects and sensorineural and conductive deafness. We report the characterization of a novel murine Sall4 null allele created by bacterial recombineering in ES cells. Homozygous mutant mice exhibit early embryonic lethality. Heterozygous mutant mice recapitulate phenotypic features of Okihiro syndrome including deafness, lower anogenital tract abnormalities, renal hypoplasia, anencephaly, Hirschprung’s disease, and skeletal defects. This phenotype shows important differences in cardiac and ear manifestations to previously characterized Sall4 mutant alleles and should prove useful for the investigation of the influence of modifier alleles and protein interactions on the transcriptional regulatory function of Sall4.
PMCID: PMC2593393  PMID: 17216607
bacterial recombineering; Sall4; Okihiro syndrome; mouse; organogenesis; embryonic stem cells
25.  Mosaic Complementation Demonstrates a Regulatory Role for Myosin VIIa in Actin Dynamics of Stereocilia▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;28(5):1702-1712.
We have developed a bacterial artificial chromosome transgenesis approach that allowed the expression of myosin VIIa from the mouse X chromosome. We demonstrated the complementation of the Myo7a null mutant phenotype producing a fine mosaic of two types of sensory hair cells within inner ear epithelia of hemizygous transgenic females due to X inactivation. Direct comparisons between neighboring auditory hair cells that were different only with respect to myosin VIIa expression revealed that mutant stereocilia are significantly longer than those of their complemented counterparts. Myosin VIIa-deficient hair cells showed an abnormally persistent tip localization of whirlin, a protein directly linked to elongation of stereocilia, in stereocilia. Furthermore, myosin VIIa localized at the tips of all abnormally short stereocilia of mice deficient for either myosin XVa or whirlin. Our results strongly suggest that myosin VIIa regulates the establishment of a setpoint for stereocilium heights, and this novel role may influence their normal staircase-like arrangement within a bundle.
PMCID: PMC2258769  PMID: 18160714

Results 1-25 (41)