Altered Fhod3 Expression Involved in Progressive High-Frequency Hearing Loss via Dysregulation of Actin Polymerization Stoichiometry in The Cuticular Plate
Age-related hearing loss (ARHL) is a common sensory impairment with complex underlying mechanisms. In our previous study, we performed a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in mice and identified a novel locus on chromosome 18 associated with ARHL specifically linked to a 32 kHz tone burst stimulus. Consequently, we investigated the role of Formin Homology 2 Domain Containing 3 (Fhod3), a newly discovered candidate gene for ARHL based on the GWAS results. We observed Fhod3 expression in auditory hair cells (HCs) and primarily localized at the cuticular plate (CP). To understand the functional implications of Fhod3 in the cochlea, we generated Fhod3 overexpression mice (Pax2-Cre+/-; Fhod3Tg/+) (TG) and HC-specific conditional knockout mice (Atoh1-Cre+/-; Fhod3fl/fl) (KO). Audiological assessments in TG mice demonstrated progressive high-frequency hearing loss, characterized by predominant loss of outer hair cells, and a decreased phalloidin intensities of CP. Ultrastructural analysis revealed shortened stereocilia in the basal turn cochlea. Importantly, the hearing and HC phenotype in TG mice were replicated in KO mice. These findings indicate that Fhod3 plays a critical role in regulating actin dynamics in CP and stereocilia. Further investigation of Fhod3 related hearing impairment mechanisms may facilitate the development of therapeutic strategies for ARHL in humans.