SAXS used to elucidate mechanism of inner-ear mechanotransduction

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Tip link filaments convey force and gate inner-ear hair-cell transduction channels to mediate perception of sound and head movements. Cadherin-23 and protocadherin-15 form tip links through a calcium-dependent interaction of their extracellular domains made of multiple extracellular cadherin (EC) repeats. These repeats are structurally similar, but not identical in sequence, often featuring linkers with conserved calcium-binding sites that confer mechanical strength to them. In a paper recently published in Nature Communications the Sotomayor lab reports the X-ray crystal structures of human protocadherin-15 EC8-EC10 and mouse EC9-EC10, which show an EC8-9 canonical-like calcium-binding linker, and an EC9-10 calcium-free linker that alters the linear arrangement of EC repeats. Molecular dynamics simulations and small-angle X-ray scattering experiments support this non-linear conformation. Simulations also suggest that unbending of EC9-10 confers some elasticity to otherwise rigid tip links. The new structure provides a first view of protocadherin-15’s non- canonical EC linkers and suggests how they may function in inner-ear mechanotransduction, with implications for other cadherins.

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Araya-Secchi R, Neel BL, Sotomayor M. “An elastic element in the protocadherin-15 tip link of the inner ear.” Nat Commun 2016 Nov 18 ;7

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