Editors' ChoicePhysiology

Prestin is the Best One, for Audition

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Science's STKE  16 May 2000:
Vol. 2000, Issue 32, pp. tw3
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2000.32.tw3

Hair cells convert acoustic information into electrical signals that are processed by the brain. These cells also elongate and shorten in response to the electronic signals they generate. The motor protein that drives this cellular shape change has gone undetected until now. Zheng et al. used subtractive hybridization to identify a candidate motor gene termed Prestin. Ectopic expression of Prestin protein in a kidney cell line exhibited charge movement when measured as transient capacitive current. This current was blocked by the addition of sodium salicylate, an agent known to block capacitive current in hair cells. Expression of an anion transport protein, Pendrin, which has a high level of sequence similarity to Prestin, in kidney cells did not lead to capacitance, suggesting that current capacitance was not, in general, the consequence of overexpressing any anion transporter. The authors also demonstrated that expression of Prestin in kidney cells could evoke a change in cell motility (and shape), giving further evidence that Prestin is the likely protein motor in auditory hair cells. An accompanying news & views by Holley summarizes the research and discusses its implications.

Zheng, J., Shen, W., He, D.Z.Z., Long, K.B., Madison, L.D., and Dallos, P. (2000) Prestin is the motor protein of cochlear outer hair cells. Nature 405: 149-155. [Online Journal]

Holley, M. (2000) Tuning in with motor proteins. Nature 405: 130-133. [Online Journal]

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