Inner hair cells (IHCs) and outer hair cells (OHCs) are the two types of sensory receptor cells that are critical for hearing in the mammalian cochlea. IHCs and OHCs have different morphology and function. The genetic mechanisms that define their morphological and functional specializations are essentially unknown. The transcriptome reflects the genes that are being actively expressed in a cell and holds the key to understanding the molecular mechanisms of the biological properties of the cell. Using DNA microarray, we examined the transcriptome of 2000 individually collected IHCs and OHCs from adult mouse cochleae. We show that 16,647 and 17,711 transcripts are expressed in IHCs and OHCs, respectively. Of those genes, ~73% are known genes, 22% are uncharacterized sequences, and 5.0% are noncoding RNAs in both populations. A total of 16,117 transcripts are expressed in both populations. Uniquely and differentially expressed genes account for 15% of all genes in either cell type. The top 10 differentially expressed genes include Slc17a8, Dnajc5b, Slc1a3, Atp2a3, Osbpl6, Slc7a14, Bcl2, Bin1, Prkd1, and Map4k4 in IHCs and Slc26a5, C1ql1, Strc, Dnm3, Plbd1, Lbh, Olfm1, Plce1, Tectb, and Ankrd22 in OHCs. We analyzed commonly and differentially expressed genes with the focus on genes related to hair cell specializations in the apical, basolateral, and synaptic membranes. Eighty-three percent of the known deafness-related genes are expressed in hair cells. We also analyzed genes involved in cell-cycle regulation. Our dataset holds an extraordinary trove of information about the molecular mechanisms underlying hair cell morphology, function, pathology, and cell-cycle control.
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