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Hum Mutat. 2000 Sep;16(3):190-202.

Molecular genetics of hearing impairment due to mutations in gap junction genes encoding beta connexins.

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Medical and Molecular Genetics Center, Cancer Research Institute, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.


Deafness is a complex disorder that involves a high number of genes and environmental factors. There has been enormous progress in non-syndromic deafness research during the last five years, with the identification of over 50 loci and 15 genes. Among these, three genes, GJB2, GJB3, and GJB6, encode for connexin proteins (Connexin26, Connexin31, and Connexin30, respectively). Another connexin (Connexin32, encoded by GJB1) is involved in X-linked peripheral neuropathy and hearing impairment. Mutations in these genes cause autosomal recessive (GJB2 and GJB3), autosomal dominant (GJB2, GJB3, and GJB6) or X-linked (GJB1) hearing impairment, both syndromic (GJB2, keratoderma; GJB3 erythrokeratodermia variabilis; and GJB1, peripheral neuropathy), and non-syndromic (GJB2, GJB3, and GJB6). Among these genes, mutations in GJB2 account for about 50% of all congenital cases of hearing impairment. Three mutations in GJB2 (35delG, 167delT, and 235delC) are particularly common in specific populations (Caucasoid, Jewish Ashkenazi, and Oriental, respectively), leading to carrier frequencies between one in 30 and one in 75. Over 50 mutations have been identified in the GJB2 gene, of which some missense changes (M34T, W44C, G59A, D66H, and R75W) have a negative dominant action in hearing impairment, with partial to full penetrance. Functional studies for some missense mutations in connexins 26, 30, and 32 have indicated abnormal gap junction conductivity. Expression patterns in mouse and rat cochlea indicate that Connexin26 and Connexin30 are expressed in the supportive cells of the cochlea, suggesting a potential role in endolymph potassium recycling. The high prevalence of mutations in GJB2 in some populations provides the tools for molecular diagnosis, carrier detection, and prenatal diagnosis of congenital hearing impairment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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