Dual embryonic origin of the mammalian otic vesicle forming the inner ear

Laina Freyer, Vimla Aggarwal, Bernice E. Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


The inner ear and cochleovestibular ganglion (CVG) derive from a specialized region of head ectoderm termed the otic placode. During embryogenesis, the otic placode invaginates into the head to form the otic vesicle (OV), the primordium of the inner ear and CVG. Non-autonomous cell signaling from the hindbrain to the OV is required for inner ear morphogenesis and neurogenesis. In this study, we show that neuroepithelial cells (NECs), including neural crest cells (NCCs), can contribute directly to the OV from the neural tube. Using Wnt1-Cre, Pax3 Cre/+ and Hoxb1 Cre/+ mice to label and fate map cranial NEC lineages, we have demonstrated that cells from the neural tube incorporate into the otic epithelium after otic placode induction has occurred. Pax3 Cre/+ labeled a more extensive population of NEC derivatives in the OV than did Wnt1-Cre. NEC derivatives constitute a significant population of the OV and, moreover, are regionalized specifically to proneurosensory domains. Descendents of Pax3 Cre/+ and Wnt1-Cre labeled cells are localized within sensory epithelia of the saccule, utricle and cochlea throughout development and into adulthood, where they differentiate into hair cells and supporting cells. Some NEC derivatives give rise to neuroblasts in the OV and CVG, in addition to their known contribution to glial cells. This study defines a dual cellular origin of the inner ear from sensory placode ectoderm and NECs, and changes the current paradigm of inner ear neurosensory development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5403-5414
Number of pages12
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2011


  • Fate mapping
  • Inner ear
  • Mouse
  • Neural crest cells
  • Sensory placode

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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