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Discovering the missing 'LINC' to deafness
Date:1/28/2013

paired members of both families had a mutated version of the protein Nesprin4, a part of the LINC group of proteins that links the cell's nucleus to the inner wall of the cell.

In the lab, Prof. Avraham recreated this phenomenon by engineering the mutation in single cells. With the mutation in place, Nesprin4 was not found in the area around the cell nucleus, as in healthy cells, but was spread throughout the entire cell. Investigating further, she studied lab mice that were engineered to be completely devoid of the protein.

Created in Singapore, the mice were originally engineered to study the biology of LINC proteins. The fact that they were deaf came as a complete surprise to researchers. Without this protein serving as an anchor, the cell nucleus is not located in the correct position within inner ear cells, but seems to float throughout. This causes the cells' other components to reorient as well, ultimately harming the polarity of the cells and hindering electrical signals. It's a mutation that took a heavy toll on the cells' ability to transfer sound signals, explains Prof. Avraham, rendering the mice deaf.

Given the similarity between mouse and human inner ear cells, researchers predict that the same phenomenon is occurring in human patients with a mutation in the Nesprin4 gene.

Looking for a wider impact

Prof. Avraham says that she and her collaborators are the first to reveal this mutation as a cause of deafness. "Now that we have reported it, scientists around the world can test for mutations in this gene," she notes. The mutation could indeed be a more common genetic cause of deafness in a number of populations. And because Nesprin4 belongs to a family of proteins that have been linked to other diseases, such as muscular coordination and degeneration disorders, this could prove a ripe area for further research.

At TAU, the research was supported by the National Institutes of Health NIDCD
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Contact: ghunka@aftau.org
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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