We compared cadherin 23 (Cdh23) mRNA and protein variants in the inner ear and retina of wild-type and mutant mice and primates to better understand the pleiotropic effects of Cdh23 mutations, and specifically to understand the absence of retinal degeneration in Cdh23 mutant mice.
Semiquantitative real-time PCR was used to compare the level of expression of Cdh23 alternative transcripts in the inner ear and retina of wild-type and homozygous Cdh23v-6J (waltzer) mice. Antibodies generated against CDH23 isoforms were used in immunohistochemistry, immunohistology, electron microscopy, and western blot analyses of mouse and primate inner ear and retina to study the distribution of these isoforms in various cellular compartments.
Cdh23 mRNA alternative splice variants were temporally and spatially regulated in the inner ear and retina. In the mature mouse retina, CDH23 isoforms were broadly expressed in various cellular compartments of the photoreceptor layer. The wild-type CDH23_V3 protein isoform, which has PDZ binding motifs but neither extracellular domains nor a transmembrane domain, localized exclusively to the outer plexiform layer of the retina containing photoreceptor cell synapses and to the synaptic region of auditory and vestibular hair cells. The longest CDH23 protein isoform, CDH23_V1, appeared by western blotting to be the only one affected by the Cdh23v-6J mutation; it was expressed in the wild-type mouse inner ear, but not in the mouse retina. However, CDH23_V1 was detected in western blot analyses of monkey and human retinas.
The time- and tissue-dependent expression patterns that we have shown for Cdh23 alternative transcripts suggest developmental roles and tissue-specific functions for the various transcripts. Many of these isoforms continue to be expressed in waltzer mice. The longest CDH23 isoform (CDH23_V1), however, is not expressed in mutant mice and is necessary for normal inner ear function. The longest isoform is expressed in the retinas of primates, but not detected in the mouse retina. This species difference suggests that the mouse may not be a suitable model for studying the retinitis pigmentosa phenotype of human Usher syndrome type 1D.