Unbalanced bidirectional radial stiffness gradients within the organ of Corti promoted by TRIOBP

Hesam Babahosseini, Inna A. Belyantseva, Rizwan Yousaf, Risa Tona, Shadan Hadi, Sayaka Inagaki, Elizabeth Wilson, Shin Ichiro Kitajiri, Gregory I. Frolenkov, Thomas B. Friedman, Alexander X. Cartagena-Rivera

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3 Scopus citations


Hearing depends on intricate morphologies and mechanical properties of diverse inner ear cell types. The individual contributions of various inner ear cell types into mechanical properties of the organ of Corti and the mechanisms of their integration are yet largely unknown. Using sub-100-nm spatial resolution atomic force microscopy (AFM), we mapped the Young’s modulus (stiffness) of the apical surface of the different cells of the freshly dissected P5–P6 cochlear epithelium from wild-type and mice lacking either Trio and F-actin binding protein (TRIOBP) isoforms 4 and 5 or isoform 5 only. Variants of TRIOBP are associated with deafness in human and in Triobp mutant mouse models. Remarkably, nanoscale AFM mapping revealed unrecognized bidirectional radial stiffness gradients of different magnitudes and opposite orientations between rows of wild-type supporting cells and sensory hair cells. Moreover, the observed bidirectional radial stiffness gradients are unbalanced, with sensory cells being stiffer overall compared to neighboring supporting cells. Deafness-associated TRIOBP deficiencies significantly disrupted the magnitude and orientation of these bidirectional radial stiffness gradients. In addition, serial sectioning with focused ion beam and backscatter scanning electron microscopy shows that a TRIOBP deficiency results in ultrastructural changes of supporting cell apical phalangeal microfilaments and bundled cortical F-actin of hair cell cuticular plates, correlating with messenger RNA and protein expression levels and AFM stiffness measurements that exposed a softening of the apical surface of the sensory epithelium in mutant mice. Altogether, this additional complexity in the mechanical properties of the sensory epithelium is hypothesized to be an essential contributor to frequency selectivity and sensitivity of mammalian hearing.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2115190119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jun 28 2022

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