The GJB2 gene is located on chromosome 13q12 and it encodes the connexin 26, a transmembrane protein involved in cell-cell attachment of almost all tissues. GJB2 mutations cause autosomal recessive (DFNB1) and sometimes dominant (DFNA3) non-syndromic sensorineural hearing loss. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that connexins are involved in regulation of growth and differentiation of epidermis and, in fact, GJB2 mutations have also been identified in syndromic disorders with hearing loss associated with various skin disease phenotypes. GJB2 mutations associated with skin disease are, in general, transmitted with a dominant inheritance pattern. Nonsyndromic deafness is caused prevalently by a loss-of-function, while literature evidences suggest for syndromic deafness a mechanism based on gain-of-function. The spectrum of skin manifestations associated with some mutations seems to have a very high phenotypic variability. Why some mutations can lead to widely varying cutaneous manifestations is poorly understood and in particular, the reason why the skin disease-deafness phenotypes differ from each other thus remains unclear. This review provides an overview of recent findings concerning pathogenesis of syndromic deafness imputable to GJB2 mutations with an emphasis on relevant clinical genotype-phenotype correlations. After describing connexin 26 fundamental characteristics, the most relevant and recent information about its known mutations involved in the syndromic forms causing hearing loss and skin problems are summarized. The possible effects of the mutations on channel expression and function are discussed.
Keywords: GJB2, connexin 26, skin, hearing loss, inheritance, ATP, genotype-phenotype correlations, cAMP, Hyperkeratosis, mucositis
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