Patterning and cell fate in the inner ear: a case for Notch in the chicken embryo

Joana Neves, Gina Abelló, Jelena Petrovic, Fernando Giraldez
Development, Growth & Differentiation 2013, 55 (1): 96-112
The development of the inner ear provides a beautiful example of one basic problem in development, that is, to understand how different cell types are generated at specific times and domains throughout embryonic life. The functional unit of the inner ear consists of hair cells, supporting cells and neurons, all deriving from progenitor cells located in the neurosensory competent domain of the otic placode. Throughout development, the otic placode resolves into the complex inner ear labyrinth, which holds the auditory and vestibular sensory organs that are innervated in a highly specific manner. How does the early competent domain of the otic placode give rise to the diverse specialized cell types of the different sensory organs of the inner ear? We review here our current understanding on the role of Notch signaling in coupling patterning and cell fate determination during inner ear development, with a particular emphasis on contributions from the chicken embryo as a model organism. We discuss further the question of how these two processes rely on two modes of operation of the Notch signaling pathway named lateral induction and lateral inhibition.

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