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Histochem Cell Biol. 2007 Nov;128(5):421-30. Epub 2007 Sep 8.

OPA1, the disease gene for optic atrophy type Kjer, is expressed in the inner ear.

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Molecular Genetics Laboratory, University Eye Hospital, Röntgenweg 11, 72076, Tübingen, Germany.


Autosomal dominant optic atrophy (adOA) is the most common form of hereditary optic neuropathy. The majority of cases are associated with mutations in the OPA1 gene. A few cases of adOA are known to be associated with moderate progressive hearing loss. To gain insight into the pathogenesis of this hearing loss, we performed expression analyses of OPA1 in the rat auditory and vestibular organ. In cochlear tissue, several splice variants of OPA1 were detected, which are also expressed in retinal tissue. OPA1 mRNA and protein was found in the hair cells and ganglion cells of the cochlea and vestibular organ. In ganglion cells, OPA1 mRNA and protein was already detectable at birth, whereas in the organ of Corti OPA1 mRNA and protein was up-regulated after birth and reached mature-like expression level during the onset of hearing. Comparison of an antibody directed to the mitochondrial marker protein HSP60 with antibodies directed to different amino acid stretches of OPA1 revealed a sub-cellular distribution of OPA1 in areas of significant density of mitochondria. The data suggest that defects in OPA1 cause hearing disorders due to a progressing metabolic disturbance of hair and ganglion cells in the inner ear.

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