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Mamm Genome. 2009 Sep-Oct;20(9-10):581-603. doi: 10.1007/s00335-009-9230-5. Epub 2009 Oct 30.

MicroRNAs and epigenetic regulation in the mammalian inner ear: implications for deafness.

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Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.


Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common sensory disorder in humans and derives, in most cases, from inner-ear defects or degeneration of the cochlear sensory neuroepithelial hair cells. Genetic factors make a significant contribution to hearing impairment. While mutations in 51 genes have been associated with hereditary sensorineural nonsyndromic hearing loss (NSHL) in humans, the responsible mutations in many other chromosomal loci linked with NSHL have not been identified yet. Recently, mutations in a noncoding microRNA (miRNA) gene, MIR96, which is expressed specifically in the inner-ear hair cells, were linked with progressive hearing loss in humans and mice. Furthermore, additional miRNAs were found to have essential roles in the development and survival of inner-ear hair cells. Epigenetic mechanisms, in particular, DNA methylation and histone modifications, have also been implicated in human deafness, suggesting that several layers of noncoding genes that have never been studied systematically in the inner-ear sensory epithelia are required for normal hearing. This review aims to summarize the current knowledge about the roles of miRNAs and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms in the development, survival, and function of the inner ear, specifically in the sensory epithelia, tectorial membrane, and innervation, and their contribution to hearing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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