The cupula is a gelatinous membrane overlying the crista ampullaris of the semicircular canal, important for sensing rotation of the head and critical for normal balance. Recently the zona pellucida like domain containing 1 protein (ZPLD1, also known as cupulin) was identified in the cupula of fish. Here, we describe two new spontaneous mutations in the mouse Zpld1 gene, which were discovered by the circling behavior of mutant mice, an indicator of balance dysfunction. The Zpld1 mutant mice exhibited normal hearing function as assessed by auditory brainstem response (ABR) measurements, and their otolithic organs appeared normal. In the inner ear, Zpld1 mRNA expression was detected only in the hair cells and supporting cells of the crista ampullaris. Normal vestibular sensory evoked potential (VsEP) responses and abnormal vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) responses demonstrated that the vestibular dysfunction of the Zpld1 mutant mice is caused by loss of sensory input for rotary head movements (detected by cristae ampullaris) and not by loss of input for linear head translations (detected by maculae of the utricle and saccule). Taken together, these results are consistent with ZPLD1 being an important functional component of the cupula, but not tectorial or otoconial membranes.
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