Neurons and sensory cells are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress due to their high oxygen demand during stimulus perception and transmission. The mechanisms that protect them from stress-induced death and degeneration remain elusive. Here we show that embryonic deletion of the chromodomain helicase DNA-binding protein 7 (CHD7) in auditory neurons or hair cells leads to sensorineural hearing loss due to postnatal degeneration of both cell types. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that CHD7 controls the expression of major stress pathway components. In its absence, hair cells are hypersensitive, dying rapidly after brief exposure to stress inducers, suggesting that sound at the onset of hearing triggers their degeneration. In humans, CHD7 haploinsufficiency causes CHARGE syndrome, a disorder affecting multiple organs including the ear. Our findings suggest that CHD7 mutations cause developmentally silent phenotypes that predispose cells to postnatal degeneration due to a failure of protective mechanisms.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 8 Oct 2021|