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EMBO J. 2011 Jun 24;30(14):2793-804. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2011.202.

A synthetic prestin reveals protein domains and molecular operation of outer hair cell piezoelectricity.

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  • 1Institute of Physiology, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.


Prestin, a transporter-like protein of the SLC26A family, acts as a piezoelectric transducer that mediates the fast electromotility of outer hair cells required for cochlear amplification and auditory acuity in mammals. Non-mammalian prestin orthologues are anion transporters without piezoelectric activity. Here, we generated synthetic prestin (SynPres), a chimera of mammalian and non-mammalian prestin exhibiting both, piezoelectric properties and anion transport. SynPres delineates two distinct domains in the protein's transmembrane core that are necessary and sufficient for generating electromotility and associated non-linear charge movement (NLC). Functional analysis of SynPres showed that the amplitude of NLC and hence electromotility are determined by the transport of monovalent anions. Thus, prestin-mediated electromotility is a dual-step process: transport of anions by an alternate access cycle, followed by an anion-dependent transition generating electromotility. The findings define structural and functional determinants of prestin's piezoelectric activity and indicate that the electromechanical process evolved from the ancestral transport mechanism.

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