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Frontiers of Medicine >> 2016, Volume 10, Issue 3 doi: 10.1007/s11684-016-0454-y

Alternative splicing of inner-ear-expressed genes

1. Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Animal Cells and Developmental Biology, School of Life Sciences, Shandong University, Jinan 250100, China.

2. School of Control Science and Engineering, Shandong University, Jinan 250061, China

Available online: 2016-08-30

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Alternative splicing plays a fundamental role in the development and physiological function of the inner ear. Inner-ear-specific gene splicing is necessary to establish the identity and maintain the function of the inner ear. For example, exon 68 of Cadherin 23 (Cdh23) gene is subject to inner-ear-specific alternative splicing, and as a result, Cdh23(+68) is only expressed in inner ear hair cells. Alternative splicing along the tonotopic axis of the cochlea contributes to frequency tuning, particularly in lower vertebrates, such as chickens and turtles. Differential splicing of Kcnma1, which encodes for the α subunit of the Ca2+-activated K+ channel (BK channel), has been suggested to affect the channel gating properties and is important for frequency tuning. Consequently, deficits in alternative splicing have been shown to cause hearing loss, as we can observe in Bronx Waltzer (bv) mice and Sfswap mutant mice. Despite the advances in this field, the regulation of alternative splicing in the inner ear remains elusive. Further investigation is also needed to clarify the mechanism of hearing loss caused by alternative splicing deficits.

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