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Science. 2013 Mar 22;339(6126):1453-6. doi: 10.1126/science.1232862.

Dual origin of the epithelium of the mammalian middle ear.

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Department of Craniofacial Development and Stem Cell Biology, King's College London, Guy's Hospital, London, UK, SE1 9RT.


The air-filled cavity and ossicles of the mammalian middle ear conduct sound to the cochlea. Using transgenic mice, we show that the mammalian middle ear develops through cavitation of a neural crest mass. These cells, which previously underwent an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transformation upon leaving the neural tube, undergo a mesenchymal-to-epithelial transformation to form a lining continuous with the endodermally derived auditory tube. The epithelium derived from endodermal cells, which surrounds the auditory tube and eardrum, develops cilia, whereas the neural crest-derived epithelium does not. Thus, the cilia critical to clearing pathogenic infections from the middle ear are distributed according to developmental derivations. A different process of cavitation appears evident in birds and reptiles, indicating that this dual epithelium may be unique to mammals.

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