Open Access Research article

Next-generation sequencing of small RNAs from inner ear sensory epithelium identifies microRNAs and defines regulatory pathways

Anya Rudnicki1, Ofer Isakov2, Kathy Ushakov1, Shaked Shivatzki1, Inbal Weiss13, Lilach M Friedman1, Noam Shomron2 and Karen B Avraham1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel

2 Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel

3 Present address: Clalit Health Services, Migdal HaEmek Clinic, Tel Aviv, Israel

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:484  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-484

Published: 18 June 2014



The mammalian inner ear contains sensory organs, the organ of Corti in the cochlea and cristae and maculae in the vestibule, with each comprised of patterned sensory epithelia that are responsible for hearing and balance. The development, cell fate, patterning, and innervation of both the sensory and nonsensory regions of the inner ear are governed by tight regulation involving, among others, transcription factors and microRNAs (miRNAs). In humans, mutations in specific miRNA genes are associated with hearing loss. In mice, experimental reduction or mutations of miRNAs in the inner ear leads to severe developmental and structural abnormalities. A comprehensive identification of miRNAs in the sensory epithelia and their gene targets will enable pathways of auditory and vestibular function to be defined.


In this study, we used Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) to identify the most prominent miRNAs in the inner ear and to define miRNA-target pairs that form pathways crucial for the function of the sensory epithelial cells. NGS of RNA from inner ear sensory epithelial cells led to the identification of 455 miRNAs in both cochlear and vestibular sensory epithelium, with 30 and 44 miRNAs found in only cochlea or vestibule, respectively. miR-6715-3p and miR-6715-5p were defined for the first time in the inner ear. Gene targets were identified for each of these miRNAs, including Arhgap12, a GTPase activating protein, for miR-6715-3p, implicating this miRNA in sensory hair cell bundle development, actin reorganization, cell adhesion and inner ear morphogenesis.


This study provides a comprehensive atlas of miRNAs in the inner ear sensory epithelia. The results provide further support of the essential regulatory role of miRNAs in inner ear sensory epithelia and in regulating pathways that define development and growth of these cells.

Deafness; Inner ear; Sensory epithelia; RNA-seq; MicroRNAs