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J Comp Neurol. 2009 Dec 20;517(6):751-64. doi: 10.1002/cne.22169.

Mapping of Wnt, frizzled, and Wnt inhibitor gene expression domains in the avian otic primordium.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA.


Wnt signaling activates at least three different pathways involved in development and disease. Interactions of secreted ligands and inhibitors with cell-surface receptors result in the activation or regulation of particular downstream intracellular cascades. During the developmental stages of otic vesicle closure and beginning morphogenesis, the forming inner ear transcribes a plethora of Wnt-related genes. We report expression of 23 genes out of 25 tested in situ hybridization probes on tissue serial sections. Sensory primordia and Frizzled gene expression share domains, with Fzd1 being a continuous marker. Prospective nonsensory domains express Wnts, whose transcripts mainly flank prosensory regions. Finally, Wnt inhibitor domains are superimposed over both prosensory and nonsensory otic regions. Three Wnt antagonists, Dkk1, SFRP2, and Frzb are prominent. Their gene expression patterns partly overlap and change over time, which adds to the diversity of molecular microenvironments. Strikingly, prosensory domains express Wnts transiently. This includes: 1) the prosensory otic region of high proliferation, neuroblast delamination, and programmed cell death at stage 20/21 (Wnt3, -5b, -7b, -8b, -9a, and -11); and 2) sensory primordia at stage 25 (Wnt7a and Wnt9a). In summary, robust Wnt-related gene expression shows both spatial and temporal tuning during inner ear development as the otic vesicle initiates morphogenesis and prosensory cell fate determination.

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