Global analysis of protein expression of inner ear hair cells

Ann E. Hickox, Ann C.Y. Wong, Kwang Pak, Chelsee Strojny, Miguel Ramirez, John R. Yates, Allen F. Ryan, Jeffrey N. Savas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The mammalian inner ear (IE) subserves auditory and vestibular sensations via highly specialized cells and proteins. Sensory receptor hair cells (HCs) are necessary for transducing mechanical inputs and stimulating sensory neurons by using a host of known and as yet unknown protein machinery. To understand the protein composition of these unique postmitotic cells, in which irreversible protein degradation or damage can lead to impaired hearing and balance, we analyzed IE samples by tandem mass spectrometry to generate an unbiased, shotgun-proteomics view of protein identities and abundances. By using Pou4f3/eGFP-transgenic mice in which HCs express GFP driven by Pou4f3, we FACS purified a population of HCs to analyze and compare the HC proteome with other IE subproteomes from sensory epithelia and whole IE. We show that the mammalian HC proteome comprises hundreds of uniquely or highly expressed proteins. Our global proteomic analysis of purified HCs extends the existing HC transcriptome, revealing previously undetected gene products and isoform-specific protein expression. Comparison of our proteomic data with mouse and human databases of genetic auditory/vestibular impairments confirms the critical role of the HC proteome for normal IE function, providing a cell-specific pool of candidates for novel, important HC genes. Several proteins identified exclusively in HCs by proteomics and verified by immunohistochemistry map to human genetic deafness loci, potentially representing new deafness genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1320-1339
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Cochlea
  • Deafness
  • Hair cells
  • Inner ear
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Proteome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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