Maeda, R., Pacentine, I.V., Erickson, T., Nicolson, T. (2017) Functional analysis of the transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains of Pcdh15a in zebrafish hair cells. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 37(12):3231-3245.
Protocadherin 15 (PCDH15) is required for mechanotransduction in sensory hair cells as a component of the tip link. Isoforms of PCDH15 differ in their cytoplasmic domains (CD1, CD2, and CD3), but share the extracellular and transmembrane (TMD) domains, as well as an intracellular domain known as the common region (CR). In heterologous expression systems, both the TMD and CR of PCDH15 have been shown to interact with members of the mechanotransduction complex. The in vivo significance of these protein-protein interaction domains of PCDH15 in hair cells has not been determined. Here, we examined the localization and function of the two isoforms of zebrafish Pcdh15a (CD1 and CD3) in pcdh15a-null mutants by assessing Pcdh15a transgene-mediated rescue of auditory/vestibular behavior and hair cell morphology and activity. We found that either isoform alone was able to rescue the Pcdh15a-null phenotype and that the CD1- or CD3-specific regions were dispensable for hair bundle integrity and labeling of hair cells with FM4-64, which was used as a proxy for mechanotransduction. When either the CR or TMD domain was deleted, the mutated proteins localized to the stereocilial tips, but were unable to rescue FM4-64 labeling. Disrupting both domains led to a complete failure of Pcdh15a to localize to the hair bundle. Our findings demonstrate that the TMD and cytoplasmic CR domains are required for the in vivo function of Pcdh15a in zebrafish hair cells.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Tip links transmit force to mechanotransduction channels at the tip of hair bundles in sensory hair cells. One component of tip links is Protocadherin 15 (PCDH15). Here, we demonstrate that, when transgenically expressed, either zebrafish Pcdh15a-cytodomain 1 (CD1) or Pcdh15a-CD3 can rescue the phenotype of a pcdh15a-null mutant. Even when lacking the specific regions for CD1 or CD3, truncated Pcdh15a that contains the so-called common region (CR) at the cytoplasmic/membrane interface still has the ability to rescue similar to full-length Pcdh15a. In contrast, Pcdh15a lacking the entire cytoplasmic domain is not functional. These results demonstrate that the CR plays a key role in the mechanotransduction complex in hair cells.