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J Neurosci. 2020 Mar 25;40(13):2618-2632. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2630-19.2020. Epub 2020 Feb 20.

EGF and a GSK3 Inhibitor Deplete Junctional E-cadherin and Stimulate Proliferation in the Mature Mammalian Ear.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Virginia, School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908, and.
Department of Neuroscience, University of Virginia, School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908, and
Department of Cell Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908.


Sensory hair cell losses underlie the vast majority of permanent hearing and balance deficits in humans, but many nonmammalian vertebrates can fully recover from hearing impairments and balance dysfunctions because supporting cells (SCs) in their ears retain lifelong regenerative capacities that depend on proliferation and differentiation as replacement hair cells. Most SCs in vertebrate ears stop dividing during embryogenesis; and soon after birth, vestibular SCs in mammals transition to lasting quiescence as they develop massively thickened circumferential F-actin bands at their E-cadherin-rich adherens junctions. Here, we report that treatment with EGF and a GSK3 inhibitor thinned the circumferential F-actin bands throughout the sensory epithelium of cultured utricles that were isolated from adult mice of either sex. That treatment also caused decreases in E-cadherin, β-catenin, and YAP in the striola, and stimulated robust proliferation of mature, normally quiescent striolar SCs. The findings suggest that E-cadherin-rich junctions, which are not present in the SCs of the fish, amphibians, and birds which readily regenerate hair cells, are responsible in part for the mammalian ear's vulnerability to permanent balance and hearing deficits.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Millions of people are affected by hearing and balance deficits that arise when loud sounds, ototoxic drugs, infections, and aging cause hair cell losses. Such deficits are permanent for humans and other mammals, but nonmammals can recover hearing and balance after supporting cells regenerate replacement hair cells. Mammalian supporting cells lose the capacity to proliferate around the time they develop unique, exceptionally reinforced, E-cadherin-rich intercellular junctions. Here, we report the discovery of a pharmacological treatment that thins F-actin bands, depletes E-cadherin, and stimulates proliferation in long-quiescent supporting cells within a balance epithelium from adult mice. The findings suggest that high E-cadherin in those supporting cell junctions may be responsible, in part, for the permanence of hair cell loss in mammals.


actin; e-cadherin; hair cell; inner ear; regeneration; vestibular

[Available on 2020-09-25]

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