Congenital deafness is a very frequent disorder occurring in approximately 1 in 1000 live births. Mutations in GJB2 encoding for gap junction protein connexin-26 (Cx26) have been established as the basis of autosomal recessive non-syndromic hearing loss and proposed in some rare cases of autosomal dominant form of deafness. Connexin are gap-junction proteins which constitute a major system of intercellular communication important in the exchange of electrolytes, second messengers and metabolites. In the inner ear, connexin 26 expression was demonstrated in the stria vascularis, basement membrane, limbus and the spiral prominence of the human cochlea. The loss of connexin 26 in the gap junction complex would expect to disrupt the recycling of potassium from the synapses at the base of hair cells through the supporting cells and fibroblasts of potassium ions back to the high potassium containing endolymph of the cochlear duct and therefore would result in a local intoxication of the Corti's organ by potassium, leading to the hearing loss. The discovery of the genes responsible of hearing loss in particular the identification of mutations in the gene coding for connexin 26 allows to hope some tremendous help in genetic counseling. The possible implication of the mutation of the connexin gene in the pathophysiology of some progressive adult deafness opens new prospects in the fine diagnostic of the ear diseases and eventually may lead to new therapeutic strategies applied to the cochlea. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.
- Inner ear
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