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Cdc42 is a key regulator of dynamic actin organization. However, little is known about how Cdc42-dependent actin regulation influences steady-state actin structures in differentiated epithelia. We employed inner ear hair-cell-specific conditional knockout to analyze the role of Cdc42 in hair cells possessing highly elaborate stable actin protrusions (stereocilia). Hair cells of Atoh1-Cre;Cdc42flox/flox mice developed normally but progressively degenerated after maturation, resulting in progressive hearing loss particularly at high frequencies. Cochlear hair cell degeneration was more robust in inner hair cells than in outer hair cells, and began as stereocilia fusion and depletion, accompanied by a thinning and waving circumferential actin belt at apical junctional complexes (AJCs). Adenovirus-encoded GFP-Cdc42 expression in hair cells and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) imaging of hair cells from transgenicmice expressing a Cdc42-FRET biosensor indicated Cdc42 presence and activation at stereociliary membranes and AJCs in cochlear hair cells. Cdc42-knockdown in MDCK cells produced phenotypes similar to those of Cdc42-deleted hair cells, including abnormal microvilli and disrupted AJCs, and downregulated actin turnover represented by enhanced levels of phosphorylated cofilin. Thus, Cdc42 influenced the maintenance of stable actin structures through elaborate tuning of actin turnover, and maintained function and viability of cochlear hair cells.


  • Journal of Cell Science

    Journal of Cell Science 127(9), 2040-2052, 2014-05

    Company of Biologists Ltd


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