THOC1 deficiency leads to late-onset nonsyndromic hearing loss through p53-mediated hair cell apoptosis
Apoptosis of cochlear hair cells is a key step towards age-related hearing loss. Although numerous genes have been implicated in the genetic causes of late-onset, progressive hearing loss, few show direct links to the proapoptotic process. By genome-wide linkage analysis and whole exome sequencing, we identified a heterozygous p.L183V variant in THOC1 as the probable cause of the late-onset, progressive, non-syndromic hearing loss in a large family with autosomal dominant inheritance. Thoc1, a
... eritance. Thoc1, a member of the conserved multisubunit THO/TREX ribonucleoprotein complex, is highly expressed in mouse and zebrafish hair cells. The thoc1 knockout (thoc1 mutant) zebrafish generated by gRNA-Cas9 system lacks the C-startle response, indicative of the hearing dysfunction. Both Thoc1 mutant and knockdown zebrafish have greatly reduced hair cell numbers, while the latter can be rescued by embryonic microinjection of human wild-type THOC1 mRNA but to significantly lesser degree by the c.547C>G mutant mRNA. The Thoc1 deficiency resulted in marked apoptosis in zebrafish hair cells. Consistently, transcriptome sequencing of the mutants showed significantly increased gene expression in the p53-associated signaling pathway. Depletion of p53 or applying the p53 inhibitor Pifithrin-α significantly rescued the hair cell loss in the Thoc1 knockdown zebrafish. Our results suggested that THOC1 deficiency lead to late-onset, progressive hearing loss through p53-mediated hair cell apoptosis. This is to our knowledge the first human disease associated with THOC1 mutations and may shed light on the molecular mechanism underlying the age-related hearing loss.