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Pigment Cell Res. 1994 Feb;7(1):17-32.

Effects of mutations at the W locus (c-kit) on inner ear pigmentation and function in the mouse.

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MRC Institute of Hearing Research, University Park, Nottingham, U.K.


The W locus encodes a tyrosine kinase receptor, c-kit, which affects survival of melanoblasts from the neural crest. The primary cochlear defect in Viable Dominant Spotting (Wv/Wv) mutants is a lack of melanocytes within the stria vascularis (SV) associated with an endocochlear potential (EP) close to zero and hearing impairment. In this study, we compare inner ear pigmentation with cochlear potentials in three other W alleles (Wx, Wsh, and W41) and reveal an unequivocal correlation between presence of strial melanocytes and presence of an EP. Asymmetry was common, and 8.3% of Wsh/Wx, 25% of Wsh/Wsh, 60% of W41/Wx, and 69.2% of W41/W41 ears had a pigmented stria and an EP, while the remainder had no strial melanocytes and no EP. In those mutants that partially escaped the effects of the mutation, strial melanocytes rarely extended the entire length of the stria, but were confined to the middle and/or basal turns of the cochlea. The extent of strial pigmentation was unrelated to the EP value, which was measured from the basal turn only. Compound action potential (CAP) responses recorded from ears with an EP were variable and they showed greatly raised thresholds or were absent in all ears where the EP was close to zero. In controls, melanocytes in the vestibular part of the ear were found in the utricle, crus commune, and ampullae, whereas in many mutants only one or two of these regions were pigmented. There was a broad correlation between pigmentation of the stria and pigmentation of the vestibular region but this was not absolute. All W41/Wx, Wsh/Wsh, and W41/W41 mutants had some pigment on the pinna but, in contrast to controls where melanocytes were found in the epidermis and dermis of the pinna, pigment cells were reduced in number and generally restricted to the dermis. Injection of normal neural crest cells into 9.5-day-old mutant embryos increased the extent of skin pigmentation on the head and coat of adult chimeras and was associated with a small increase in the proportion of pigmented strias.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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