Prof. Karen Avraham

גנטיקה מולשל אדם וביוכמ סגל אקדמי בכיר
Prof. Karen Avraham
Phone: 03-6407030
Another phone: 03-6406642
Fax: 03-6409360
Office: Sackler School of Medicine, 10


Professor, Department of Human Molecular Genetics & Biochemistry, Sackler Faculty of Medicine

Vice Dean for Preclinical Affairs, Sackler Faculty of Medicine

Scientific Board Member, I-CORE for Gene Regulation in Complex Human Disease

President, Federation of the Israel Societies for Experimental Biology (ILANIT)

President, Israel Society of Auditory Research

Associate Editor, European Journal of Human Genetics



Genomic Analysis of Hereditary Hearing Loss

Our primary interest is the genetic basis of hereditary hearing loss or deafness. Our group is working towards the identification, characterization and regulation of genes associated with hereditary hearing loss. For gene discovery, we focus on the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab populations in the Middle East. Our studies have encompassed the prevalence of connexin 26 mutations in these populations, the most common form of deafness, to the identification of mutations in over 30 genes, since this is a genetically heterogeneous disease. We are employing deep sequencing, also known as massively parallel sequencing, to identify mutations using the latest genomic technology.


Our work has provided the link between gene discovery and clinical diagnosis in genetic clinics in medical centers throughout Israel. In addition, we have studied the auditory and vestibular systems of a dozen mouse mutants, focusing on mutation identification, morphological and functional analysis of the organ of Corti and its cells, and behavioral analysis of hearing and balance disorders. This has allowed us to define the pathways leading to deafness in mouse models for human deafness. Most recently, we have demonstrated that microRNAs are essential for development and function of inner ear hair cells in vertebrates through microRNA expression, mouse mutants and target identification.


Publications and Grants


Shefer, S., Gordon, C.R., Avraham, K.B. and Mintz, M. (2010) Progressive vestibular mutation leads to elevated anxiety. Brain Res. 1317: 157–164.


Shahin, H., Rahil, M., Abu Rayan, A., Avraham, K.B., King, M.-C., Kanaan, M. and Walsh, T. (2010) Nonsense mutation of the stereociliar membrane protein gene PTPRQ in human hearing loss DFNB84. J. Med. Gen. 47: 643-645.


Wainreb, G., Ashkenazy, H., Bromberg, Y., Starovolsky-Shitrit, A., Haliloglu, T., Ruppin, E., Avraham, K.B., Rost, B. and Ben-Tal, N. (2010) MuD: an interactive web server for the prediction of non-neutral substitutions using protein structural data. Nucleic Acids Res. 38: W523-528.


Walsh, T., Shahin, H., Elkan-Miller, T., Lee, M.K., Thornton, A.M., Roeb, W., Abu Rayyan, A., Loulus, S., Avraham, K.B., King, M.-C. and Kanaan, M. (2010) Whole exome sequencing and homozygosity mapping identify mutation in the cell polarity protein GPSM2 as the cause of non-syndromic hearing loss DFNB82. Am. J. Hum. Genet. 87: 1-5.


Walsh, T., Pierce, S.B., Lenz, D.R., Brownstein, Z., Dagan-Rosenfeld, O., Shahin, H., Roeb, W., McCarthy, S., Nord, A.S., Gordon, C.R., Ben-Neriah, Z., Sebat, J., Kanaan, M., Lee, M.K., Frydman, M., King, M.-C. and Avraham, K.B. (2010) Genomic duplication and over-expression of TJP2/ZO-2 leads to altered expression of apoptosis genes in progressive non-syndromic hearing loss DFNA51. Am. J. Hum. Genet. 87: 101-109.


Dror, A.A., Politi, Y., Shahin, H., Lenz, D.R., Dossena, S., Nofziger, C., Fuchs, H., Hrabé de Angelis, M., Paulmichl, M., Weiner, S. and Avraham, K.B. (2010). Calcium oxalate stone formation in the inner ear as a result of an Slc26a4 mutation. J. Biol. Chem. 285: 21724-21735.


Atar, O. and Avraham, K.B. (2010) Anti-apoptotic factor z-val-ala-asp-fluoromethylketone promotes the survival of cochlear hair cells in a mouse model for human deafness. Neurosci. 168: 851–857.


Lenz, D.R., Dror, A.A., Wekselman, G. Fuchs, H., Hrabé de Angelis, M. and Avraham, K.B. (2010) The inner ear phenotype of Volchok (Vlk): an ENU-induced mouse model for CHARGE syndrome. Audiol. Med. 8: 110-119.


Walsh, V.L., Raviv, D., Dror, A.A., Shahin, H., Walsh, T., Kanaan, M.N., Avraham, K.B. and King, M.-C. (2010) A mouse model for human hearing loss DFNB30 due to loss of function of myosin IIIA. Mamm. Genome 22: 170-177.


Wainreb, G., Ashkenazy, H., Bromberg, Y., Starovolsky-Shitrit, A., Haliloglu, T., Ruppin, E., Avraham, K.B., Rost, B. and Ben-Tal, N. (2010) MuD: an interactive web server for the prediction of non-neutral substitutions using protein structural data. Nucleic Acids Res. 38: W523-528.


Paz, A., Brownstein, Z., Ber, Y., Bialik, S., David, E., Sagir, D., Ulitsky, I., Elkon, R., Kimchi, A., Avraham, K.B., Shiloh, Y. and Shamir, R. (2011) SPIKE: a database of highly curated human signaling pathways. Nucleic Acids Res. 39: D793-793.


Elkan-Miller, T., Ulitsky, I., Hertzano, R., Rudnicki, A., Dror, A.A., Lenz, D.R., Elkon, R., Irmler, M., Beckers, J., Shamir, R. and Avraham, K.B. (2011) Integration of transcriptomics, proteomics, and microRNA analyses reveals novel microRNA regulation of targets in the mammalian inner ear. PLoS One 6: e18195.


Brownstein, Z.*, Friedman, L.M.*, Shahin, H., Oron-Karni, V., Kol, N., Abu Rayyan, A., Parzefall, T., Lev, D., Shalev, S., Frydman, M., Davidov, B., Shohat, M., Rahile, M., Lieberman, S., Levy-Lahad, E., Lee, M., Shomron, N., King, M.-C., Walsh, T., Kanaan, M. and Avraham, K.B. (2011) Targeted genomic capture and massively parallel sequencing to identify genes for hereditary hearing loss in Middle Eastern families. Genome Biol. 12: R89.


Rosengauer, E., Hartwich, H., Hartmann, A.M., Rudnicki, A., Satheesh, S.V., Avraham, K.B. and Nothwang, H.G. (2012) Egr2::Cre mediated conditional ablation of Dicer disrupts histogenesis of mammalian central auditory nuclei. PLoS One. 7:e49503.


Horn, H.F.*, Brownstein, Z.*, Lenz, D.R., Shivatzki, S., Dror, A.A., Dagan-Rosenfeld, O., Friedman, L.M., Roux, K.J., Kozlov, S., Jeang, K.-T., Frydman, M., Burke, B., Stewart, C.L., and Avraham, K.B. (2013) The LINC complex is essential for hearing. J. Clin. Invest. 123:740-750


Parzefall T.*, Shivatzki, S.*, Lenz, D.R., Rathkolb, B., Ushakov, K., Karfunkel, D., Shapira, Y., Wolf, M., Mohr, M., Wolf, E., Sabrautzki, S.,Hrabé de Angelis, M., Frydman, M., Brownstein, Z., and Avraham, K.B. (2013) Cytoplasmic mislocalization of POU3F4 due to novel mutations leads to deafness in humans and mice. Hum. Mut. 34:1102-1110.


Ehmann, H., Hartwich, H., Salzig, C., Hartmann, N., Clément-Ziza, M., Ushakov, K., Avraham, K.B., Bininda-Emonds, O.R.P., Hartmann, A.K., Lang, P., Friauf, E., and Gerd Nothwang, H. (2013) Time-dependent gene expression analysis of the developing superior olivary complex. J. Biol. Chem. 288:25865-25879.


Brownstein, Z.*, Abu-Rayyan, A.*, Karfunkel-Doron, D., Sirigu, S., Davidov, B., Shohat, M., Frydman, M., Houdusse, A., Kanaan, M., Avraham, K.B. (2013) Novel myosin mutations for hereditary hearing loss revealed by targeted genomic capture and massively parallel sequencing. Eur J Hum Genet., 22:768-75.


Takada, Y., Beyer, L.A., Swiderski, D.L., O'Neal, A.L., Prieskorn, D.M., Shivatzki, S., Avraham, K.B., and Raphael, Y. (2013) Connexin 26 null mice exhibit spiral ganglion degeneration that can be blocked by BDNF gene therapy. Hear. Res. 309C:124-135.


Behar, D.M., Davidov, B., Brownstein, Z., Ben-Yosef, T., Avraham, K.B., and Shohat, M. (2014) The many faces of sensorineural hearing loss: one founder and two novel mutations affecting one family of mixed Jewish ancestry. Genet. Test. Mol. Biomarkers. 18:123-126.


Rudnicki, A., Shivatzki, S., Beyer, L.A., Takada, Y., Raphael, Y. and Avraham, K.B. (2014) microRNA-224 regulates Pentraxin 3, a component of the humoral arm of innate immunity, in inner ear inflammation. Hum. Molec. Genet. 23:3138-46.


Dror A.A., Lenz, D.R., Shivatzki, S., Cohen, K., Ashur-Fabian, O. and Avraham, K.B. (2014) Atrophic thyroid follicles and inner ear defects reminiscent of cochlear hypothyroidism in Slc26a4-related deafness. Mamm. Genome. DOI 10.1007/s00335-014-9515-1 [Epub ahead of print]


Rudnicki, A., Isakov, O., Ushakov, K., Shivatzki, S., Weiss, I., Friedman, L.M., Shomron, N. and Avraham, K.B. (2014) Next-generation sequencing of small RNAs from inner ear sensory epithelium identifies microRNAs and defines regulatory pathways. BMC Genomics. 15:484.


Shefer, S., Gordon, C., Avraham, K.B. and Mintz, M. (2014) Balance deficit enhances anxiety and balance training decreases anxiety in vestibular mutant mice. Behav Brain Res, doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.06.046. [Epub ahead of print].


Sokolov, M., Brownstein, Z., Frydman, M. and Avraham, K.B. (2014) Apparent phenotypic anticipation in autosomal dominant connexin 26 deafness. J. Basic Clin. Physiol. Pharmacol. 25:289-292.


Jones, C., Qian, D., Kim, S.M., Li, S., Ren, D., Knapp, L., Sprinzak, D., Avraham, K.B., Matsuzaki, F., Chi, F. and Chen, P. (2014) Ankrd6 is a mammalian functional homolog of Drosophila planar cell polarity gene diego and regulates coordinated cellular orientation in the mouse inner ear. Dev. Biol. 395:62-72.


Shefer, S., Gordon, C., Avraham, K.B. and Mintz, M. (2015) Balance deficit enhances anxiety and balance training decreases anxiety in vestibular mutant mice. Behav Brain Res, 276:76-83.


Bhonker, Y., Abu-Rayyan, A., Ushakov, K., AmirZilberstein, A., Shivatzki, S., Yizhar-Barnea, O., ElkanMiller, T., Tayeb-Fligelman, E., Kim, S.M., Landau, M., Kanaan, K., Chen, P., Matsuzaki, F., Sprinzak, D., Avraham, K.B. (2015) The GPSM2/LGN GoLoco motifs are essential for hearing. Mamm. Genome, 27:29-46.


Marcotti, W., Corns, L.F., Goodyear, R.J., Rzadzinska, A.K., Avraham, K.B., Steel, K.P., Richardson, G. and Kros, C.J. (2016) The acquisition of mechanoelectrical transducer current adaptation in auditory hair cells requires myosin VI. J. Physiol. 594:3667- 3681.


Perl, K., Ushakov, K., Pozniak, Y., Yizhar-Barnea, O., Bhonker, Y., Shivatzki, S., Geiger, T., Avraham, K.B.*, Shamir, R. (2016)* Reduced changes in protein compared to mRNA levels across non-proliferating tissues. BMC Genomics, 18:305. *Shared authorship.


Ushakov, K., Koffler-Brill, T., Rom, A., Perl, K., Ulitsky, I., Avraham, K.B. (2017) Genome-wide identification and expression profiling of long non-coding RNAs in auditory and vestibular systems. Sci. Rep., 7:8637. 


Reviews and Chapters

Raviv, D., Dror, A.A. and Avraham, K.B. (2010) Hearing loss: a common disorder caused by many rare alleles. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1214: 168-179.


Dror, A.A. and Avraham, K.B. (2010) Hearing impairment: a panoply of genes and functions. Neuron 68: 293-308.


Ozçelik, T., Kanaan, M., Avraham, K.B., Yannoukakos, D., Mégarbané, A., Tadmouri, G.O., Middleton, L., Romeo, G., King, M.C. and Levy-Lahad, E. (2010) Collaborative genomics for human health and cooperation in the Mediterranean region. Nat. Genet. 42: 641-645.


Lenz, D.R. and Avraham, K.B. (2011) Hereditary hearing loss: From human mutation to mechanism. Hear. Res. 281: 3-10.


Dror, A., Brownstein, Z. and Avraham, K.B. (2011) Integration of human and mouse genetics reveals pendrin function in hearing and deafness. Cell. Physiol. Biochem. 28: 535-544.


Brownstein, Z., Bhonker, Y. and Avraham, K.B. High-throughput sequencing and the genetic heterogeneity of deafness. Genome Biol. 13:245.


Rudnicki, A. and Avraham, K.B. (2012) microRNAs: the art of silencing in the ear. EMBO Mol Med. 4:849-859.


Avraham, K.B. and Kanaan, M. (2012) Genomic advances for gene discovery in hereditary hearing loss. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 23:93-97.


Friedman, L.M., Elkan-Miller, T., Rudnicki, A., Dror, A.A. and Avraham, K.B. (2011) MicroRNAs in the inner ear: implications for hearing loss. In: Usher Syndrome: Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Therapy. (A. Satpel, ed). Nova Publishers. Chapter 9.


Brownstein, Z., Shivatzki, S. and Avraham, K.B. (2013) Molecular Etiology of Deafness and Cochlear Consequences. In: Deafness. (A. Kral, A.N. Popper, R.R. Fay, eds). Springer-Verlag, NY. 47:17-39.


Higashi, T., Lenz, D.R., Furuse, M. and Avraham, K.B. (2013) A “Tric” to tighten cell-cell junctions in the cochlea for hearing. J. Clin. Invest. 123:3712-3715.


Idan, N., Brownstein, Z., Shivatzki, S., and Avraham, K.B. (2013) Advances in genetic diagnosis for hereditary hearing loss. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 24:165-170.


Avraham, K.B. (2013) Rescue from hearing loss in Usher’s syndrome. N Engl J Med. 369:1758-1760.


Ushakov, K., Rudnicki, A., Avraham, K.B. (2013) MicroRNAs in sensorineural diseases of the ear. Front Molec Neurosci. 6:52.


Bhonker, Y., Ushakov, K., Avraham, K.B. (2014) Human Gene Discovery for Understanding Development of the Inner Ear and Hearing Loss. In: Development of Auditory and Vestibular Systems. Fourth Edition. (R. Romand, I. Varela, eds). Elsevier.


Karfunkel-Doron, D., Brownstein, Z. and Avraham, K.B. (2014) Genomic Applications in Audiological Medicine. In: Genomic Medicine Principals and Practice. Second Edition. (D. Kumar, C. Eng, eds). Oxford University Press. 663-682.


Koffler, T., Ushakov, K. and Avraham, K.B. (2015) Genetics of hearing loss – syndromic. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 48:1041-1061.


Avraham, K.B. What’s hot about otoferlin. (2016) EMBO J. 35:2502-2504.


Dror, A. and Avraham, K.B. (2017) The Slc26a4loop Mouse Model for Pendred’s Syndrome and Nonsyndromic Deafness. In: The Role of Pendrin in Health and Disease. (S. Dossena, M. Paulmichl, eds). Springer International Publishing. 23-36.


Doetzlhofer, A. and Avraham, K.B. (2016) Insights into inner ear-specific gene regulation: epigenetics and non-coding RNAs in inner ear development and regeneration. Semin. Cell Dev. Biol. 65:69-79.


Yizhar-Barnea, O. and Avraham, K. B. (2017) Single cell analysis of the inner ear sensory organs. Int J Dev Biol. 61:205-213.



2011 – 2015    Gene Expression and microRNA Regulation in Hair and Supporting Cells of Mouse, Israel Science Foundation


2011 – 2017    Gene Discovery for Hearing Loss in Middle East by Massively Parallel Sequencing, National Institutes of Health, Co-PI: Moien Kanaan


2012 – 2015    Morphodynamics of Mammalian Planar Cell Polarity - a Quantitative Approach, Human Frontier Science Program, Co-PIs: Ping Chen, David Sprinzak, Fumio Matsuzaki


2014 – 2017    Epigenetic Regulation in the Mammalian Inner Ear. Binational Science Foundation. Co-PI: R. David Hawkins.


2016 – 2019    Identification of a Network of Short and Long Noncoding RNAs Controlling Mammalian Inner Ear Development. Israel Science Foundation. Foundation.


2018  2020    Function of microRNAs in the peripheral and central auditory system. GermanIsraeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (GIF). Co-PI: Hans Gerd Nothwang

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