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Open Access Hypothesis

Sequence similarity between stereocilin and otoancorin points to a unified mechanism for mechanotransduction in the mammalian inner ear

Luca Jovine1, Jong Park2 and Paul M Wassarman1*

Author Affiliations

1 Brookdale Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029-6574, USA

2 MRC Dunn Human Nutrition Unit, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2XY, UK

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BMC Cell Biology 2002, 3:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-3-28

Published: 25 November 2002

Abstract

Background

Interaction between hair cells and acellular gels of the mammalian inner ear, the tectorial and otoconial membranes, is crucial for mechanoreception. Recently, otoancorin was suggested to be a mediator of gel attachment to nonsensory cells, but the molecular components of the interface between gels and sensory cells remain to be identified.

Hypothesis

We report that the inner ear protein stereocilin is related in sequence to otoancorin and, based on its localisation and predicted GPI-anchoring, may mediate attachment of the tectorial and otoconial membranes to sensory hair bundles.

Testing

It is expected that antibodies directed against stereocilin would specifically label sites of contact between sensory hair cells and tectorial/otoconial membranes of the inner ear.

Implications

Our findings support a unified molecular mechanism for mechanotransduction, with stereocilin and otoancorin defining a new protein family responsible for the attachment of acellular gels to both sensory and nonsensory cells of the inner ear.