RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Hepatocyte Growth Factor-c-MET Signaling Mediates the Development of Nonsensory Structures of the Mammalian Cochlea and Hearing.

UNLABELLED: The stria vascularis is a nonsensory structure that is essential for auditory hair cell function by maintaining potassium concentration of the scala media. During mouse embryonic development, a subpopulation of neural crest cell-derived melanocytes migrates and incorporates into a subregion of the cochlear epithelium, forming the intermediate cell layer of the stria vascularis. The relation of this developmental process to stria vascularis function is currently unknown. In characterizing the molecular differentiation of developing peripheral auditory structures, we discovered that hepatocyte growth factor (Hgf) is expressed in the future stria vascularis of the cochlear epithelium. Its receptor tyrosine kinase, c-Met, is expressed in the cochlear epithelium and melanocyte-derived intermediate cells in the stria vascularis. Genetic dissection of HGF signaling via c-MET reveals that the incorporation of the melanocytes into the future stria vascularis of the cochlear duct requires c-MET signaling. In addition, inactivation of either the ligand or receptor developmentally resulted in a profound hearing loss at young adult stages. These results suggest a novel connection between HGF signaling and deafness via melanocyte deficiencies.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: We found the roles of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) signaling in stria vascularis development for the first time and that lack of HGF signaling in the inner ear leads to profound hearing loss in the mouse. Our findings reveal a novel mechanism that may underlie human deafness DFNB39 and DFNB97. Our findings reveal an additional example of context-dependent c-MET signaling diversity, required here for proper cellular invasion developmentally that is essential for specific aspects of auditory-related organogenesis.

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