Analysis of the mouse mutant Cloth-ears shows a role for the voltage-gated sodium channel Scn8a in peripheral neural hearing loss.
Mackenzie FE., Parker A., Parkinson NJ., Oliver PL., Brooker D., Underhill P., Lukashkina VA., Lukashkin AN., Holmes C., Brown SD.
Deafness is the most common sensory disorder in humans and the aetiology of genetic deafness is complex. Mouse mutants have been crucial in identifying genes involved in hearing. However, many deafness genes remain unidentified. Using N-ethyl N-nitrosourea (ENU) mutagenesis to generate new mouse models of deafness, we identified a novel semi-dominant mouse mutant, Cloth-ears (Clth). Cloth-ears mice show reduced acoustic startle response and mild hearing loss from approximately 30 days old. Auditory-evoked brainstem response (ABR) and distortion product otoacoustic emission (DPOAE) analyses indicate that the peripheral neural auditory pathway is impaired in Cloth-ears mice, but that cochlear function is normal. In addition, both Clth/Clth and Clth/+ mice display paroxysmal tremor episodes with behavioural arrest. Clth/Clth mice also show a milder continuous tremor during movement and rest. Longitudinal phenotypic analysis showed that Clth/+ and Clth/Clth mice also have complex defects in behaviour, growth, neurological and motor function. Positional cloning of Cloth-ears identified a point mutation in the neuronal voltage-gated sodium channel alpha-subunit gene, Scn8a, causing an aspartic acid to valine (D981V) change six amino acids downstream of the sixth transmembrane segment of the second domain (D2S6). Complementation testing with a known Scn8a mouse mutant confirmed that this mutation is responsible for the Cloth-ears phenotype. Our findings suggest a novel role for Scn8a in peripheral neural hearing loss and paroxysmal motor dysfunction.