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Keywords:

  • auditory;
  • axon guidance;
  • chicken embryo;
  • inner ear;
  • robo;
  • slit;
  • vestibular

Abstract

Mechanosensory hair cells in the chick inner ear synapse onto afferent neurons of the statoacoustic ganglion (SAG). During development, these neurons extend a central process to the brain and a peripheral process into one of eight sensory organs. A combination of cues, including chemoattractants and chemorepellents, direct otic axons to their peripheral targets. As a first step in evaluating the role of known axon guidance molecules, Slits and Robos, we examined expression of their transcripts in the chick inner ear from embryonic day 2–11 (Hamburger and Hamilton stages 14–37). Robo2 and slit2 are in migrating neuroblasts and the SAG, while both slits and robos are in the otic epithelium. We speculate that this family of signaling molecules may be involved in repulsion, first of otic neuroblasts and then of otic axons. Later our expression data revealed a potentially novel role for these molecules in maintaining sensory/nonsensory boundaries. Developmental Dynamics 237:476–484, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.