The neuroepithelia of the inner ear contain hair cells that function as mechanoreceptors to transduce sound and motion signals. Mutations affecting these neuroepithelia cause deafness and vestibular dysfuction in humans1-3. Ames waltzer (av) is a recessive mutation found in mice that causes deafness and a balance disorder associated with the degeneration of inner ear neuroepithelia4. Here we report that the gene that harbours the av mutation encodes a novel protocadherin. Cochlear hair cells in the av mutants show abnormal stereocilia by 10 days after birth (P10). This is the first evidence for the requirement of a protocadherin for normal function of the mammalian inner ear.
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