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Dev Biol. 1997 Apr 1;184(1):175-86.

Retinoic acid disturbs mouse middle ear development in a stage-dependent fashion.

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  • 1Max-Planck Institute of Immunobiology, Freiburg, Germany.


The mammalian middle ear contains a chain of three ossicles, the malleus, incus, and stapes, that transmit into the inner ear the vibrations produced in the tympanic membrane by aerial sound. I show here that retinoic acid interferes with the formation of the middle ear in a stage-specific fashion. The malformations produced are derived from a retinoic acid-induced inhibition of the formation and/or migration of the cranial neural crest that generates the middle ear skeletal elements and not from a respecification of neural crest identity to more posterior fates. I have used these effects of retinoic acid to analyze the temporal sequence of events involved in the morphogenesis of the middle ear. I show that the middle ear bones develop from several primordia that originate in a typical temporal sequence from Day 8 plus 4.5 hr to Day 8 plus 7.5 hr of pregnancy. Moreover, interactions between adjacent bones are not required for their proper formation. My results also suggest a Hoxa-2-mediated patterning of the otic capsule in the region where the oval window is located.

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