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J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2009 Sep;10(3):321-40. doi: 10.1007/s10162-009-0162-2. Epub 2009 Apr 17.

Hes5 expression in the postnatal and adult mouse inner ear and the drug-damaged cochlea.

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  • 1Department of Biological Structure, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


The Notch signaling pathway is known to have multiple roles during development of the inner ear. Notch signaling activates transcription of Hes5, a homologue of Drosophila hairy and enhancer of split, which encodes a basic helix-loop-helix transcriptional repressor. Previous studies have shown that Hes5 is expressed in the cochlea during embryonic development, and loss of Hes5 leads to overproduction of auditory and vestibular hair cells. However, due to technical limitations and inconsistency between previous reports, the precise spatial and temporal pattern of Hes5 expression in the postnatal and adult inner ear has remained unclear. In this study, we use Hes5-GFP transgenic mice and in situ hybridization to report the expression pattern of Hes5 in the inner ear. We find that Hes5 is expressed in the developing auditory epithelium of the cochlea beginning at embryonic day 14.5 (E14.5), becomes restricted to a particular subset of cochlear supporting cells, is downregulated in the postnatal cochlea, and is not present in adults. In the vestibular system, we detect Hes5 in developing supporting cells as early as E12.5 and find that Hes5 expression is maintained in some adult vestibular supporting cells. In order to determine the effect of hair cell damage on Notch signaling in the cochlea, we damaged cochlear hair cells of adult Hes5-GFP mice in vivo using injection of kanamycin and furosemide. Although outer hair cells were killed in treated animals and supporting cells were still present after damage, supporting cells did not upregulate Hes5-GFP in the damaged cochlea. Therefore, absence of Notch-Hes5 signaling in the normal and damaged adult cochlea is correlated with lack of regeneration potential, while its presence in the neonatal cochlea and adult vestibular epithelia is associated with greater capacity for plasticity or regeneration in these tissues; which suggests that this pathway may be involved in regulating regenerative potential.

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