The precise assembly of inner ear hair cell stereocilia into rows of increasing height is critical for mechanotransduction and the sense of hearing. Yet, how the lengths of actin-based stereocilia are regulated remains poorly understood. Mutations of the molecular motor myosin-15 stunt stereocilia growth and cause deafness. We found that hair cells express two isoforms of myosin-15 through alternative splicing of an N-terminal domain, and that these isoforms selectively traffic to different stereocilia rows. Using an isoform-specific knockout mouse, hair cells expressing only the small isoform remarkably develop normal stereocilia bundles. However, a critical subset of stereocilia with active mechanotransducer channels subsequently retracts. The larger isoform with the N-terminal domain traffics to these specialized stereocilia and prevents disassembly of their actin core. Our results show that myosin-15 isoforms can navigate between functionally distinct classes of stereocilia, and are independently required to assemble and then maintain the intricate hair bundle architecture.
Animal experimentation: All animal procedures were approved by the institutional animal care and use committees (IACUC) at the University of Michigan (#PRO00004639, #PRO00005913, #PRO00005128), the University of Kentucky (#903M2005) and at the NIDCD (#1263-12).
- Jeremy Nathans, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, United States
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