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Dev Biol. 2013 Sep 1;381(1):179-88. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2013.05.028. Epub 2013 Jun 7.

CaMK-II activation is essential for zebrafish inner ear development and acts through Delta-Notch signaling.

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Department of Biology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA.


Zebrafish inner ear development is characterized by the crystallization of otoliths onto immotile kinocilia that protrude from sensory "hair" cells. The stereotypical formation of these sensory structures is dependent on the expression of key patterning genes and on Ca2+ signals. One potential target of Ca2+ signaling in the inner ear is the type II Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CaMK-II), which is preferentially activated in hair cells, with intense activation at the base of kinocilia. In zebrafish, CaMK-II is encoded by seven genes; the expression of one of these genes (camk2g1) is enriched in hair cells. The suppression of camk2g1 expression by antisense morpholino oligonucleotides or inhibition of CaMK-II activation by the pharmacological antagonist, KN-93, results in aberrant otolith formation without preventing cilia formation. In fact, CaMK-II suppression results in additional ciliated hair cells and altered levels of Delta-Notch signaling members. DeltaA and deltaD transcripts are increased and DeltaD protein accumulates in hair cells of CaMK-II morphants, indicative of defective recycling and/or exocytosis. Our findings indicate that CaMK-II plays a critical role in the developing ear, influencing cell differentiation through extranuclear effects on Delta-Notch signaling. Continued expression and activation of CaMK-II in maculae and cristae in older embryos suggests continued roles in auditory sensory maturation and transduction.


CaMK-II; Cilia; Delta–notch; Inner ear; Otolith

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