The tectorial membrane is an extracellular matrix lying over the apical surface of the auditory epithelium. Immunofluorescence studies have suggested that some proteins of the avian tectorial membrane, the tectorins, may be unique to the inner ear (Killick, R., C. Malenczak, and G. P. Richardson. 1992. Hearing Res. 64:21-38). The cDNA and deduced amino acid sequences for chick beta-tectorin are presented. The cDNA encodes a protein of 36,902.6 D with a putative signal sequence, four potential N-glycosylation sites, 13 cysteines, and a hydrophobic COOH terminus. Western blots of two-dimensional gels using antibodies to a synthetic peptide confirm the identity of the cDNA. Southern and Northern analysis suggests that beta-tectorin is a single-copy gene only expressed in the inner ear. The predicted COOH terminus is similar to that of glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked proteins, and antisera raised to this region react with in vitro translation products of the cDNA clone but not with mature beta-tectorin. These data suggest beta-tectorin is synthesized as a glycosylphosphatidyl-inositol-linked precursor, targeted to the apical surface of the sensory epithelium by the lipid moiety, and then further processed. Sequence analysis indicates the predicted protein possesses a zona pellucida domain, a sequence that is common to a limited number of other matrix-forming proteins and may be involved in the formation of filaments. In the cochlear duct, beta-tectorin is expressed in the basilar papilla, in the clear cells and the cuboidal cells, as well as in the striolar region of the lagena macula. The expression of beta-tectorin is associated with hair cells that have an apical cell surface specialization known as the 275-kD hair cell antigen restricted to the basal region of the hair bundle, suggesting that matrices containing beta-tectorin are required to drive this hair cell type.

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