The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 51: 507 - 520 (2007)

Vol 51, Issue 6-7

Special Issue: Ear Development

Axial patterning in the developing vertebrate inner ear

Published: 1 September 2007

Tanya T. Whitfield* and Katherine L. Hammond

Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics, Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield, UK.


Axial patterning in the vertebrate inner ear has been studied for over eighty years, and recent work has made great progress towards an understanding of the molecular mechanisms responsible for establishing asymmetries about the otic axes. Tissues extrinsic to the ear provide sources of signalling molecules that are active early in development, at or before otic placode stages, while intrinsic factors interpret these signals to establish and maintain axial pattern. Key features of dorsoventral otic patterning in amniote embryos involve Wnt and Fgf signalling from the hindbrain and Hh signalling from midline tissues (notochord and floorplate). Mutual antagonism between these pathways and their downstream targets within the otic epithelium help to refine and maintain dorsoventral axial patterning in the ear. In the zebrafish ear, the same tissues and signals are implicated, but appear to play a role in anteroposterior, rather than dorsoventral, otic patterning. Despite this paradox, conservation of mechanisms may be higher than is at first apparent.


axis, inner ear, otic vesicle, otocyst, axial patterning

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