The polycystic kidney disease-1 (Pkd1) gene encodes a large transmembrane protein (polycystin-1, or PC-1) that is reported to function as a fluid flow sensor in the kidney. As a member of the transient receptor potential family, PC-1 has also been hypothesized to play a role in the elusive mechanoelectrical transduction (MET) channel in inner ear hair cells. Here, we analyze two independent mouse models of PC-1, a knock-in (KI) mutant line and a hair cell-specific inducible Cre-mediated knock-out line. Both models exhibit normal MET channel function at neonatal ages despite hearing loss and ultrastructural abnormalities of sterecilia that remain properly polarized at adult ages. These findings demonstrate that PC-1 plays an essential role in stereocilia structure and maintenance but not directly in MET channel function or planar cell polarity. We also demonstrate that PC-1 is colocalized with F-actin in hair cell stereocilia in vivo, using a hemagglutinin-tagged PC-1 KI mouse model, and in renal epithelial cell microvilli in vitro. These results not only demonstrate a novel role for PC-1 in the cochlea, but also suggest insight into the development of polycystic kidney disease.
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