The release of surface-anchored α-tectorin, an apical extracellular matrix protein, mediates tectorial membrane organization

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Science Advances  27 Nov 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 11, eaay6300
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay6300


The tectorial membrane (TM) is an apical extracellular matrix (ECM) that hovers over the cochlear sensory epithelium and plays an essential role in auditory transduction. The TM forms facing the luminal endolymph-filled space and exhibits complex ultrastructure. Contrary to the current extracellular assembly model, which posits that secreted collagen fibrils and ECM components self-arrange in the extracellular space, we show that surface tethering of α-tectorin (TECTA) via a glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchor is essential to prevent diffusion of secreted TM components. In the absence of surface-tethered TECTA, collagen fibrils aggregate randomly and fail to recruit TM glycoproteins. Conversely, conversion of TECTA into a transmembrane form results in a layer of collagens on the epithelial surface that fails to form a multilayered structure. We propose a three-dimensional printing model for TM morphogenesis: A new layer of ECM is printed on the cell surface concomitant with the release of a preestablished layer to generate the multilayered TM.

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