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J Neurosci Res. 2004 Nov 15;78(4):461-71.

Direct transdifferentiation gives rise to the earliest new hair cells in regenerating avian auditory epithelium.

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Department of Otolaryngology, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The avian auditory epithelium is capable of complete regeneration after hair cell (HC) loss. Most new HCs arise via cell division, but approximately one-third of new HCs arise via direct transdifferentiation (DT), in which supporting cells (SCs) alter their phenotype without dividing. In this study, we used synchronous, gentamicin-induced near-total HC loss in the basal end of the epithelium and continuous infusion of the cell division marker bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) to identify the origin of each individual regenerating HC. Early new HCs were identified by immunolabeling for the HC-specific marker myosin-VIIa, and mitotic cells with BrdU immunolabeling. The first new HCs arising via DT appear 72-96 hr after gentamicin, 24-48 hr earlier than the first new mitotic HCs. After Day 6, however, most new HCs are mitotic. The "intermediate" morphology that has been suggested to be characteristic of DT is seen in HCs arising via both pathways. These findings suggest that DT is a simpler, more rapid process that produces the first new HCs, and that mitotic regeneration is somewhat slower but ultimately produces most new HCs. The identical morphology of regenerating HCs from both pathways suggests that once HC fate is established, all new HCs follow similar cellular processes during differentiation and reorganization into the regenerated epithelium.

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