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Overlooked KCNQ4 variants augment the risk of hearing loss

Cited 1 time in Web of Science Cited 1 time in Scopus

Oh, Kyung Seok; Roh, Jae Won; Joo, Sun Young; Ryu, Kunhi; Kim, Jung Ah; Kim, Se Jin; Jang, Seung Hyun; Koh, Young Ik; Kim, Da Hye; Kim, Hye-Youn; Choi, Murim; Jung, Jinsei; Namkung, Wan; Nam, Joo Hyun; Choi, Jae Young; Gee, Heon Yung

Issue Date
Experimental & Molecular Medicine, Vol.55 No.4, pp.12276-859
Pathogenic variants of KCNQ4 cause symmetrical, late-onset, progressive, high-frequency-affected hearing loss, which eventually involves all frequencies with age. To understand the contribution of KCNQ4 variants to hearing loss, we analyzed whole-exome and genome sequencing data from patients with hearing loss and individuals whose hearing phenotypes were unknown. In KCNQ4, we identified seven missense variants and one deletion variant in 9 hearing loss patients and 14 missense variants in the Korean population with an unknown hearing loss phenotype. The p.R420W and p.R447W variants were found in both cohorts. To investigate the effects of these variants on KCNQ4 function, we performed whole-cell patch clamping and examined their expression levels. Except for p.G435Afs*61, all KCNQ4 variants exhibited normal expression patterns similar to those of wild-type KCNQ4. The p.R331Q, p.R331W, p.G435Afs*61, and p.S691G variants, which were identified in patients with hearing loss, showed a potassium (K+) current density lower than or similar to that of p.L47P, a previously reported pathogenic variant. The p.S185W and p.R216H variants shifted the activation voltage to hyperpolarized voltages. The channel activity of the p.S185W, p.R216H, p.V672M, and p.S691G KCNQ4 proteins was rescued by the KCNQ activators retigabine or zinc pyrithione, whereas p.G435Afs*61 KCNQ4 proteins were partially rescued by sodium butyrate, a chemical chaperone. Additionally, the structure of the variants predicted using AlphaFold2 showed impaired pore configurations, as did the patch-clamp data. Our findings suggest that KCNQ4 variants may be overlooked in hearing loss that starts in adulthood. Some of these variants are medically treatable; hence, genetic screening for KCNQ4 is important.
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