Mutations in potassium voltage-gated channel subfamily Q member 4 (KCNQ4) are etiologically linked to nonsyndromic hearing loss (NSHL), deafness nonsyndromic autosomal dominant 2 (DFNA2). To identify causative mutations of hearing loss in 98 Korean families, we performed whole exome sequencing. In four independent families with NSHL, we identified a cosegregating heterozygous missense mutation, c.140T>C (p.Leu47Pro), in KCNQ4. Individuals with the c.140T>C KCNQ4 mutation shared a haplotype flanking the mutated nucleotide, suggesting that this mutation may have arisen from a common ancestor in Korea. The mutant KCNQ4 protein could reach the plasma membrane and interact with wild-type (WT) KCNQ4, excluding a trafficking defect; however, it exhibited significantly decreased voltage-gated potassium channel activity and fast deactivation kinetics compared with WT KCNQ4. In addition, when co-expressed with WT KCNQ4, mutant KCNQ4 protein exerted a dominant-negative effect. Interestingly, the channel activity of the p.Leu47Pro KCNQ4 protein was rescued by the KCNQ activators MaxiPost and zinc pyrithione. The c.140T>C (p.Leu47Pro) mutation in KCNQ4 causes progressive NSHL; however, the defective channel activity of the mutant protein can be rescued using channel activators. Hence, in individuals with the c.140T>C mutation, NSHL is potentially treatable, or its progression may be delayed by KCNQ activators.
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