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J Hum Genet. 2010 Jun;55(6):327-35. doi: 10.1038/jhg.2010.29. Epub 2010 Apr 9.

Genetics and pathological mechanisms of Usher syndrome.

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Department of Otolaryngology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33136, USA.


Usher syndrome (USH) comprises a group of autosomal recessively inherited disorders characterized by a dual sensory impairment of the audiovestibular and visual systems. Three major clinical subtypes (USH type I, USH type II and USH type III) are distinguished on the basis of the severity of the hearing loss, the presence or absence of vestibular dysfunction and the age of onset of retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Since the cloning of the first USH gene (MYO7A) in 1995, there have been remarkable advances in elucidating the genetic basis for this disorder, as evidence for 11 distinct loci have been obtained and genes for 9 of them have been identified. The USH genes encode proteins of different classes and families, including motor proteins, scaffold proteins, cell adhesion molecules and transmembrane receptor proteins. Extensive information has emerged from mouse models and molecular studies regarding pathogenesis of this disorder and the wide phenotypic variation in both audiovestibular and/or visual function. A unifying hypothesis is that the USH proteins are integrated into a protein network that regulates hair bundle morphogenesis in the inner ear. This review addresses genetics and pathological mechanisms of USH. Understanding the molecular basis of phenotypic variation and pathogenesis of USH is important toward discovery of new molecular targets for diagnosis, prevention and treatment of this debilitating disorder.

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