Professional Education

  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Colorado Boulder (2005)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania (2012)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications

  • The cochlear sensory epithelium derives from Wnt responsive cells in the dorsomedial otic cup DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY Brown, A. S., Rakowiecki, S. M., Li, J. Y., Epstein, D. J. 2015; 399 (1): 177-187


    Wnt1 and Wnt3a secreted from the dorsal neural tube were previously shown to regulate a gene expression program in the dorsal otic vesicle that is necessary for vestibular morphogenesis (Riccomagno et al., 2005. Genes Dev. 19, 1612-1623). Unexpectedly, Wnt1(-/-); Wnt3a(-/-) embryos also displayed a pronounced defect in the outgrowth of the ventrally derived cochlear duct. To determine how Wnt signaling in the dorsal otocyst contributes to cochlear development we performed a series of genetic fate mapping experiments using two independent Wnt responsive driver strains (TopCreER and Gbx2(CreER)) that when crossed to inducible responder lines (Rosa(lacZ) or Rosa(zsGreen)) permanently labeled dorsomedial otic progenitors and their derivatives. Tamoxifen time course experiments revealed that most vestibular structures showed some degree of labeling when recombination was induced between E7.75 and E12.5, consistent with continuous Wnt signaling activity in this tissue. Remarkably, a population of Wnt responsive cells in the dorsal otocyst was also found to contribute to the sensory epithelium of the cochlear duct, including auditory hair and support cells. Similar results were observed with both TopCreER and Gbx2(CreER) strains. The ventral displacement of Wnt responsive cells followed a spatiotemporal sequence that initiated in the anterior otic cup at, or immediately prior to, the 17-somite stage (E9) and then spread progressively to the posterior pole of the otic vesicle by the 25-somite stage (E9.5). These lineage-tracing experiments identify the earliest known origin of auditory sensory progenitors within a population of Wnt responsive cells in the dorsomedial otic cup.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ydbio.2015.01.001

    View details for Web of Science ID 000350709300016

    View details for PubMedID 25592224

  • Otic ablation of smoothened reveals direct and indirect requirements for Hedgehog signaling in inner ear development DEVELOPMENT Brown, A. S., Epstein, D. J. 2011; 138 (18): 3967-3976


    In mouse embryos lacking sonic hedgehog (Shh), dorsoventral polarity within the otic vesicle is disrupted. Consequently, ventral otic derivatives, including the cochlear duct and saccule, fail to form, and dorsal otic derivatives, including the semicircular canals, endolymphatic duct and utricle, are malformed or absent. Since inner ear patterning and morphogenesis are heavily dependent on extracellular signals derived from tissues that are also compromised by the loss of Shh, the extent to which Shh signaling acts directly on the inner ear for its development is unclear. To address this question, we generated embryos in which smoothened (Smo), an essential transducer of Hedgehog (Hh) signaling, was conditionally inactivated in the otic epithelium (Smo(ecko)). Ventral otic derivatives failed to form in Smo(ecko) embryos, whereas vestibular structures developed properly. Consistent with these findings, we demonstrate that ventral, but not dorsal, otic identity is directly dependent on Hh. The role of Hh in cochlear-vestibular ganglion (cvg) formation is more complex, as both direct and indirect signaling mechanisms are implicated. Our data suggest that the loss of cvg neurons in Shh(-/-) animals is due, in part, to an increase in Wnt responsiveness in the otic vesicle, resulting in the ectopic expression of Tbx1 in the neurogenic domain and subsequent repression of Ngn1 transcription. A mitogenic role for Shh in cvg progenitor proliferation was also revealed in our analysis of Smo(ecko) embryos. Taken together, these data contribute to a better understanding of the intrinsic and extrinsic signaling properties of Shh during inner ear development.

    View details for DOI 10.1242/dev.066126

    View details for Web of Science ID 000294156000013

    View details for PubMedID 21831920

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