Prestin is a gene recently cloned from mammalian cochlear outer hair cells (OHC) using a single cell type, outer minus inner hair cell, specific suppressive subtractive hybridization procedure. The localization and gene expression profile of the prestin protein fits the pattern of OHC’s development of electromotility. When prestin is abundantly expressed in normally nonmotile kidney cells, nonlinear capacitance and motility that are normally only seen in OHCs can be recorded. Furthermore, both nonlinear capacitance and motility can be reduced by salicylate, a well-known inhibitor of electromotility. These data suggest that prestin is the motor protein of OHCs. Amino acid sequence and gene structure analysis indicate that prestin is the fifth member of a newly discovered anion transport family (SLC26) that includes PDS, DRA and DTDST, which are chloride-iodide transporters, Cl/HCO3 exchangers or sulfate transporters. Prestin shares overall structure similarity with this anion transporter family. Recently, intracellular anions (chloride or bicarbonate) were found to be essential for OHC electromotility and prestin’s function.

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