LIN28B/let-7 control the ability of neonatal murine auditory supporting cells to generate hair cells through mTOR signaling

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Mechano-sensory hair cells within the inner ear cochlea are essential for the detection of sound. In mammals, cochlear hair cells are only produced during development and their loss, due to disease or trauma, is a leading cause of deafness. In the immature cochlea, prior to the onset of hearing, hair cell loss stimulates neighboring supporting cells to act as hair cell progenitors and produce new hair cells. However, for reasons unknown, such regenerative capacity (plasticity) is lost once supporting cells undergo maturation. Here, we demonstrate that the RNA binding protein LIN28B plays an important role in the production of hair cells by supporting cells and provide evidence that the developmental drop in supporting cell plasticity in the mammalian cochlea is, at least in part, a product of declining LIN28B-mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activity. Employing murine cochlear organoid and explant cultures to model mitotic and nonmitotic mechanisms of hair cell generation, we show that loss of LIN28B function, due to its conditional deletion, or due to overexpression of the antagonistic miRNA let-7g, suppressed Akt-mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) activity and renders young, immature supporting cells incapable of generating hair cells. Conversely, we found that LIN28B overexpression increased Akt-mTORC1 activity and allowed supporting cells that were undergoing maturation to de-differentiate into progenitor-like cells and to produce hair cells via mitotic and nonmitotic mechanisms. Finally, using the mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin, we demonstrate that LIN28B promotes supporting cell plasticity in an mTORC1- dependent manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22225-22236
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 8 2020


  • Hair cell regeneration
  • Inner ear cochlea
  • LIN28
  • Let-7 miRNA
  • MTOR pathway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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