ELMOD1 stimulates ARF6-GTP hydrolysis to stabilize apical structures in developing vestibular hair cells.
Sensory hair cells require control of physical properties of their apical plasma membranes for normal development and function. Members of the ARF small GTPase family regulate membrane trafficking and cytoskeletal assembly in many cells. We identified ELMOD1, a guanine nucleoside triphosphatase activating protein (GAP) for ARF6, as the most highly enriched ARF regulator in hair cells. To characterize ELMOD1 control of trafficking, we analyzed mice of both sexes from a strain lacking functional ELMOD1 (roundabout; rda). In rda/rda mice, cuticular plates of utricle hair cells initially formed normally, then degenerated after postnatal day 5 (P5); large numbers of vesicles invaded the compromised cuticular plate. Hair bundles initially developed normally, but the cell's apical membrane lifted away from the cuticular plate, and stereocilia elongated and fused. Membrane trafficking in type I hair cells, measured by FM1-43 dye labeling, was altered in rda/rda mice. Consistent with the proposed GAP role for ELMOD1, the ARF6 GTP/GDP ratio was significantly elevated in rda/rda utricles as compared to controls, and the level of ARF6-GTP was correlated with the severity of the rda/rda phenotype. These results suggest that conversion of ARF6 to its GDP-bound form is necessary for final stabilization of the hair bundle.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTAssembly of the mechanically sensitive hair bundle of sensory hair cells requires growth and reorganization of apical actin and membrane structures. Hair bundles and apical membranes in mice with mutations in the Elmod1 gene degenerate after formation, suggesting that the ELMOD1 protein stabilizes these structures. We show that ELMOD1 is a GTPase-activating protein in hair cells for the small GTP-binding protein ARF6, known to participate in actin assembly and membrane trafficking. We propose that conversion of ARF6 into the GDP-bound form in the apical domain of hair cells is essential for stabilizing apical actin structures like the hair bundle and ensuring that the apical membrane forms appropriately around the stereocilia. J Neurosci 2017 Dec 8 [Epub ahead of print]