Embryonic inner ear cells use migratory mechanisms to establish cell patterns in vitro



The hair cells of the sensory epithelium in the inner ear are among the most precisely organized cells in vertebrates. The mechanisms that lead to this orderly arrangement are only beginning to be understood. It has been suggested that hair cells use migratory mechanisms to help achieve their final position in the organ of Corti. The small size and complex organization of the intact inner ear have made it difficult to monitor changes in hair cell location over time in vivo. In the present study, an established in vitro assay of dissociated, embryonic inner ear cells was used to monitor how hair cells reorganize over time. The hair cell specific marker myosin-VI demonstrated that hair cell precursors from both cochlear and vestibular regions reorganized into specific patterns between 3–24 hr in vitro. In contrast to the unlabeled cells, the myosin-VI-positive cells extended processes while establishing the hair cell patterning within an aggregate. These studies support the hypothesis that hair cell precursors actively migrate to help achieve final patterning within the inner ear sensory epithelium. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.