Mutation of the GJB2 gene, which encodes the connexin 26 (Cx26) gap junction (GJ) protein, is the most common cause of hereditary, sensorineural hearing loss. Cx26 is not expressed in hair cells, but is widely expressed throughout the non-sensory epithelial cells of the cochlea. Most GJB2 mutations produce non-syndromic deafness, but a subset produces syndromic deafness in which profound hearing loss is accompanied by a diverse array of infectious and neoplastic cutaneous disorders that can be fatal. Although GJ channels, which are assembled by the docking of two, so-called hemichannels (HCs), have been the main focus of deafness-associated disease models, it is now evident that the HCs themselves can function in the absence of docking and contribute to signaling across the cell membrane as a novel class of ion channel. A notable feature of syndromic deafness mutants is that the HCs exhibit aberrant behaviors providing a plausible basis for disease that is associated with excessive or altered contributions of Cx26 HCs that, in turn, lead to compromised cell integrity. Here we discuss some of the aberrant Cx26 HC properties that have been described for mutants associated with keratitis-ichthyosis-deafness (KID) syndrome, a particularly severe Cx26-associated syndrome, which shed light on genotype-phenotype relationships and causes underlying cochlear dysfunction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience