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Mech Dev. 2007 Aug;124(7-8):631-45. Epub 2007 Apr 20.

Early regionalization of the otic placode and its regulation by the Notch signaling pathway.

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DCEXS-Universitat Pompeu Fabra, C/Dr. Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain.


Otic neuronal precursors are the first cells to be specified and do so in the anterior domain of the otic placode, the proneural domain. In the present study, we have explored the early events of otic proneural regionalization in relation to the activity of the Notch signaling pathway. The proneural domain was characterized by the expression of Sox3, Fgf10 and members of the Notch pathway such as Delta1, Hes5 and Lunatic Fringe. The complementary non-neural domain expressed two patterning genes, Lmx1b and Iroquois1, and the members of the Notch pathway, Serrate1 and Hairy1. Fate map studies and double injections with DiI/DiO showed that labeled cells remained confined to anterior or posterior territories with limited cell intermingling. To explore whether Notch signaling pathway plays a role in the initial regionalization of the otic placode, Notch activity was blocked by a gamma-secretase inhibitor (DAPT). Notch blockade induced the expansion of non-neural genes, Lmx1 and Iroquois1, into the proneural domain. Combined gene expression and DiI experiments showed that these effects were not due to migration of non-neural cells into the proneural domain, suggesting that Notch activity regulates the expression of non-neural genes. This was further confirmed by the electroporation of a dominant-negative form of the Mastermind-like1 gene that caused the up-regulation of Lmx1 within the proneural domain. In addition, Notch pathway was involved in neuronal precursor selection, probably by a classical mechanism of lateral inhibition. We propose that the regionalization of the otic domain into a proneural and a non-neural territory is a very early event in otic development, and that Notch signaling activity is required to exclude the expression of non-neural genes from the proneural territory.

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