Purdue University Graduate School
McGrath Dissertation 120720.pdf (13.56 MB)

The role of ADF and cofilin in auditory sensory cell development

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posted on 2020-12-08, 15:09 authored by Jamis McGrathJamis McGrath

Our ability to hear relies on sensory cells found in the inner ear that transduce sound into biological signals. Microvilli-like protrusions called stereocilia are bundled on the apical surfaces of these cells and allow them to respond to sound-evoked vibrations. The architecture of the stereocilia bundle is highly patterned to ensure normal hearing. Filaments of polymerized actin proteins are bundled in parallel into large cylindrical structures that define the dimensions of stereocilia. This network is then anchored to the cell by inserting into another actin-based structure called the cuticular plate, which forms a gel-like structure and facilitates the mechanical properties of the bundle. The shape of the bundle is determined through tissue-level and intrinsic polarization signaling pathways. Auditory brainstem-evoked response testing, immunofluorescence imaging, scanning electron microscopy, and biochemical labeling techniques were used to study how the ADF/cofilin family of actin filament severing and depolymerizing proteins contributes to the development of the stereocilia bundle. Loss of these proteins disrupts the normal bundle patterning process, changes the lengths and widths of stereocilia, and alters the regulation of filament ends near the ion channel at stereocilia tips that is responsible for mechanotransduction. The activity of this channel regulates ADF/cofilins and the actin at stereocilia tips. Aberrant actin growth in actin networks beneath the stereocilia bundle influences the bundle patterning process, causes dysmorphic bundles to form. This work identifies that ADF/cofilins are necessary during auditory sensory cell development to facilitate normal bundle patterning and establishes this protein family as a molecular link between mechanotransduction and stereocilia bundle maturation.


Cytoskeletal stability in stereocilia maintenance

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

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Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Biological Sciences

Campus location

  • Indianapolis

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Benjamin Perrin

Additional Committee Member 2

Theodore Cummins

Additional Committee Member 3

Teri Belecky-Adams

Additional Committee Member 4

Lata Balakrishnan

Additional Committee Member 5

Bo Zhao