Connexins play vital roles in hearing, including promoting cochlear development and sustaining auditory function in the mature cochlea. Mutations in connexins expressed in the cochlear epithelium, Cx26 and Cx30, cause sensorineural deafness and in the case of Cx26, is one of the most common causes of non-syndromic, hereditary deafness. Connexins function as gap junction channels and as hemichannels, which mediate intercellular and transmembrane signaling, respectively. Both channel configurations can play important, but very different roles in the cochlea. The potential roles connexin hemichannels can play are discussed both in normal cochlear function and in promoting pathogenesis that can lead to hearing loss.
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