Date of this Version
PLoS ONE 13(8): e0201713
Hearing and balance depend upon the precise morphogenesis and mechanosensory function of stereocilia, the specialized structures on the apical surface of sensory hair cells in the inner ear. Previous studies of Grxcr1 mutant mice indicated a critical role for this gene in control of stereocilia dimensions during development. In this study, we analyzed expression of the paralog Grxcr2 in the mouse and evaluated auditory and vestibular function of strains carrying targeted mutations of the gene. Peak expression of Grxcr2 occurs during early postnatal development of the inner ear and GRXCR2 is localized to stereocilia in both the cochlea and in vestibular organs. Homozygous Grxcr2 deletion mutants exhibit significant hearing loss by 3 weeks of age that is associated with developmental defects in stereocilia bundle orientation and organization. Despite these bundle defects, the mechanotransduction apparatus assembles in relatively normal fashion as determined by whole cell electrophysiological evaluation and FM1-43 uptake. Although Grxcr2 mutants do not exhibit overt vestibular dysfunction, evaluation of vestibular evoked potentials revealed subtle defects of the mutants in response to linear accelerations. In addition, reduced Grxcr2 expression in a hypomorphic mutant strain is associated with progressive hearing loss and bundle defects. The stereocilia localization of GRXCR2, together with the bundle pathologies observed in the mutants, indicate that GRXCR2 plays an intrinsic role in bundle orientation, organization, and sensory function in the inner ear during development and at maturity.