Fgf10 expression patterns in the developing chick inner ear



The inner ear is a complex three-dimensional sensorial structure with auditory and vestibular functions. It originates from the otic placode, which invaginates, forming the otic vesicle; the latter gives rise to neurosensory and nonsensory elements of the adult membranous labyrinth. A hypothesis based on descriptive and experimental evidence suggests that the acquisition of discrete sensory patches during evolution of this primordium may be related to subdivision of an early pansensory domain. In order to gain insight into this developmental mechanism, we carried out a detailed analysis of the spatial and temporal expression pattern of the gene Fgf10, by comparing different markers of otic patterning and hair cell differentiation. Fgf10 expression labels a sensory-competent domain included in a Serrate-positive territory from which most of the sensory epithelia arise. Our data show that Fgf10 transcripts are present initially in a narrow ventromedial band of the rudimentary otocyst, extending between its rostral and caudal poles. During development, this Fgf10-expressing area splits repetitively into several separate subareas, creating six of the eight sensory organs present in birds. Only the lateral crista and the macula neglecta were initially Fgf10 negative, although they activated Fgf10 expression after their specification as sensory elements. These results allowed us to determine a timetable of sensory specification in the developing chick inner ear. The comparison of the expression pattern of Fgf10 with those of other markers of sensory differentiation contributes to our understanding of the mechanism by which vertebrate inner ear prosensory domains have arisen during evolution. J. Comp. Neurol. 521:1136–1164, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.