Prestin, the motor protein of cochlear outer hair cells, was identified 14 years ago. Prestin-based outer hair cell motility is responsible for the exquisite sensitivity and frequency selectivity seen in the mammalian cochlea. Prestin is the 5th member of an eleven-member membrane transporter superfamily of SLC26A proteins. Unlike its paralogs, which are capable of transporting anions across the cell membrane, prestin primarily functions as a motor protein with unique capability of performing direct and reciprocal electromechanical conversion on microsecond time scale. Significant progress in the understanding of its structure and the molecular mechanism has been made in recent years using electrophysiological, biochemical, comparative genomics, structural bioinformatics, molecular dynamics simulation, site-directed mutagenesis and domain-swapping techniques. This article reviews recent advances of the structural and functional properties of prestin with focus on the areas that are critical but still controversial in understanding the molecular mechanism of how prestin works: The structural domains for voltage sensing and interaction with anions and for conformational change. Future research directions and potential application of prestin are also discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sensory Systems