Genes critical for hearing identified

October 12, 2017, Medical Research Council
genes
This image shows the coding region in a segment of eukaryotic DNA. Credit: National Human Genome Research Institute

Fifty-two previously unidentified genes that are critical for hearing have been found by testing over 3,000 mouse genes. The newly discovered genes will provide insights into the causes of hearing loss in humans, say scientists from Medical Research Council (MRC) Harwell, who led the analysis by the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium (IMPC).

The study, published in Nature Communications, tested 3,006 strains of 'knock-out' mice for signs of . 'Knock-out' mice have one gene from their genome inactivated, which helps researchers to uncover the functions of that gene. The IMPC aims to generate a 'knock-out' for every gene in the mouse genome.

The hearing thresholds of the knock-out mice were assessed with rising volumes of sound at five different frequencies - mice were considered hearing impaired if they could not hear the quieter sounds for two or more frequencies.

They identified 67 genes that were associated with hearing loss, of which 52 had not been previously linked with hearing loss. The genes identified varied in how they affected hearing - effects ranged from mild to severe hearing loss or resulted in difficulties at lower or higher frequencies.

The knock-out mice tested so far in this study represented only about 15% of mouse genes, so the researchers estimate that if the entire genome is searched there will be at least 450 genes required for hearing function.

In humans, there are over 400 genetic syndromes that include a hearing loss component, however most of the genes underlying hearing loss syndromes are currently unknown.

Professor Steve Brown, senior author on the paper and Director of MRC Harwell, said: "Importantly, the large number of hearing loss genes identified in this study demonstrates that there are many more genes involved in deafness in mouse and human genomes than we had previously realised.

"Our findings identify 52 genes that have previously not been recognised as being critical for hearing. These increase our knowledge of the many genes and molecular mechanisms required for hearing, and also provide a shortlist of new genes to investigate to discover the genetic basis of many human hearing loss syndromes. Testing these genes in people with hearing loss may help to improve diagnosis and counselling of patients.

"The next steps will be to determine the role that each of the proteins encoded by these genes has within the auditory system. Further investigation of these hearing loss mouse models will increase understanding of how the auditory system develops, is maintained, and the pathological processes involved with its decline. In particular, we need to establish whether the genes impact on known hearing loss pathways or if they implicate new processes in the auditory system. A longer term benefit that could arise from studying these models might be the identification of critical cellular functions, which can then be targets for therapies."

Dr Michael Bowl, from MRC Harwell and first author on the paper, said: "Mouse genetics has played an important role in our understanding of the development and functioning of the mammalian auditory system. We anticipate this list of loss will grow hugely over the coming years, as the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium continues to screen new mutants."

Explore further: Immune system cells protect against CMV-induced hearing loss in mice

More information: A large scale hearing loss screen reveals an extensive unexplored genetic landscape for auditory dysfunction, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00595-4

Related Stories

Immune system cells protect against CMV-induced hearing loss in mice

September 29, 2017
Immune system cells known as natural killer (NK) cells play an important protective role against hearing loss in mice infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV), according to a new study published in PLOS Pathogens.

Researchers identify gene associated with age-related hearing loss

August 18, 2016
A large screening programme has identified several genes associated with age-related conditions including hearing loss, retinal degeneration and osteoarthritis. The animal study, published in Nature Communications, may lead ...

Gene may hold key to hearing recovery

April 24, 2017
Researchers have discovered that a protein implicated in human longevity may also play a role in restoring hearing after noise exposure. The findings, where were published in the journal Scientific Reports, could one day ...

Wbp2 is a novel deafness gene

February 8, 2016
Researchers at King's College London and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom have for the first time demonstrated a direct link between the Wbp2 gene and progressive hearing loss. The scientists report ...

Recommended for you

15 new genes identified that shape human faces

February 20, 2018
Researchers from KU Leuven (Belgium) and the universities of Pittsburgh, Stanford, and Penn State have identified 15 genes that determine facial features. The findings were published in Nature Genetics.

New software helps detect adaptive genetic mutations

February 20, 2018
Researchers from Brown University have developed a new method for sifting through genomic data in search of genetic variants that have helped populations adapt to their environments. The technique, dubbed SWIF(r), could be ...

New algorithm can pinpoint mutations favored by natural selection in large sections of the human genome

February 20, 2018
A team of scientists has developed an algorithm that can accurately pinpoint, in large regions of the human genome, mutations favored by natural selection. The finding provides deeper insight into how evolution works, and ...

Highly mutated protein in skin cancer plays central role in skin cell renewal

February 20, 2018
Approximately once a month, our skin completely renews itself. If this highly coordinated process goes awry, it can lead to a variety of skin diseases, ranging from skin cancer to psoriasis. Cells lining such organs as skin ...

Study of smoking and genetics illuminates complexities of blood pressure

February 15, 2018
Analyzing the genetics and smoking habits of more than half a million people has shed new light on the complexities of controlling blood pressure, according to a study led by researchers at Washington University School of ...

New mutation linked to ovarian cancer can be passed down through dad

February 15, 2018
A newly identified mutation, passed down through the X-chromosome, is linked to earlier onset of ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in father and sons. Kunle Odunsi, Kevin H. Eng and colleagues at Roswell Park Comprehensive ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.