On Oct. 30, 2019, Dr. Xiong Wei group published 'TMC1 is an essential component of a leak channel that modulates tonotopy and excitability of auditory hair cells in mice' in eLife.
Hearing sensation relies on the mechano-electrical transducer (MET) channel of cochlear hair cells, in which transmembrane channel-like 1 (TMC1) and transmembrane channel-like 2 (TMC2) have been proposed to be the pore-forming subunits in mammals. TMCs were also found to regulate other biological processes than MET in invertebrates ranging from sensations to motor function. However, whether TMCs have a non-MET role remains elusive in mammals. Here, we report that in mouse hair cells, TMC1, but not TMC2, provides a background leak conductance, with properties distinct from those of the MET channels. By cysteine substitutions in TMC1, we characterized 4 amino acids that are required for the leak conductance. The leak conductance is graded in frequency-dependent manner along the length of the cochlea and indispensable for action potential firing. Taken together, our results show that TMC1 confers a background leak conductance in cochlear hair cells, which may be critical for the acquisition of sound-frequency and -intensity.