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Hum Mol Genet. 2003 Apr 15;12(8):805-12.

Mutations in the gene for connexin 26 (GJB2) that cause hearing loss have a dominant negative effect on connexin 30.

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  • 1UCL Centre for Auditory Research and Institute of Laryngology and Otology, 330-332 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8EE, UK.


Mutations in the gene (GJB2) encoding connexin 26 (cx26) have been linked to sensorineural hearing loss either alone or as part of a syndrome. Here we compare the properties of four cx26 mutants derived from point mutations associated with dominantly inherited hearing loss, either non-syndromic (W44S, R75W) or with various skin disorders (G59A, D66H, R75W). Since cx26 and cx30 are co-localized within the inner ear the effect of the dominant cx26 mutations on both of these wild-type proteins was determined. Communication-deficient HeLa cells were transiently transfected with the various cDNA constructs by microinjection. Dye transfer studies using the gap junction permeant tracer Cascade Blue demonstrated a disruption to the intercellular coupling for all four of the mutant proteins. Immunostaining of the transfected cells revealed that for the G59A and D66H mutants this correlated with impaired intracellular trafficking and targeting to the plasma membrane, as both proteins had a perinuclear localization. The impaired trafficking was rescued by oligomerization both with cx26 and with cx30, suggesting that cx26 and cx30 can form heteromeric connexons. Significantly reduced dye transfer rates were observed between cells co-expressing either cx26 or cx30 together with W44S or R75W compared with the wild-type proteins alone. The dominant actions of the G59A and D66H mutants were only on cx30 and cx26, respectively. We suggest that cx26 and cx30 form heteromeric connexons in vivo, within the inner ear, with particular properties essential for hearing. Disruption of these heteromeric channels by certain mutations may underlie the non-syndromic nature of the deafness.

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