Doctor of Philosophy, University of Washington (2009)
Stefan Heller, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
The otocyst harbors progenitors for most cell types of the mature inner ear. Developmental lineage analyses and gene expression studies suggest that distinct progenitor populations are compartmentalized to discrete axial domains in the early otocyst. Here, we conducted highly parallel quantitative RT-PCR measurements on 382 individual cells from the developing otocyst and neuroblast lineages to assay 96 genes representing established otic markers, signaling-pathway-associated transcripts, and novel otic-specific genes. By applying multivariate cluster, principal component, and network analyses to the data matrix, we were able to readily distinguish the delaminating neuroblasts and to describe progressive states of gene expression in this population at single-cell resolution. It further established a three-dimensional model of the otocyst in which each individual cell can be precisely mapped into spatial expression domains. Our bioinformatic modeling revealed spatial dynamics of different signaling pathways active during early neuroblast development and prosensory domain specification. PAPERFLICK:
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2014.03.036
View details for Web of Science ID 000335765500022
The lack of cochlear regenerative potential is the main cause for the permanence of hearing loss. Albeit quiescent in vivo, dissociated non-sensory cells from the neonatal cochlea proliferate and show ability to generate hair cell-like cells in vitro. Only a few non-sensory cell-derived colonies, however, give rise to hair cell-like cells, suggesting that sensory progenitor cells are a subpopulation of proliferating non-sensory cells. Here we purify from the neonatal mouse cochlea four different non-sensory cell populations by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). All four populations displayed proliferative potential, but only lesser epithelial ridge and supporting cells robustly gave rise to hair cell marker-positive cells. These results suggest that cochlear supporting cells and cells of the lesser epithelial ridge show robust potential to de-differentiate into prosensory cells that proliferate and undergo differentiation in similar fashion to native prosensory cells of the developing inner ear.
View details for DOI 10.1038/srep00026
View details for Web of Science ID 000296046900002
View details for PubMedID 22355545
During inner ear morphogenesis, the process of prosensory specification defines the specific regions of the otic epithelium that will give rise to the six separate inner ear organs essential for hearing and balance. The mechanism of prosensory specification is not fully understood, but there is evidence that the Notch intercellular signaling pathway plays a critical role. The Notch ligand Jagged1 (Jag1) is expressed in the prosensory domains, and mutation of Jag1 impairs sensory formation. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of Notch in vitro during prosensory specification disrupts the prosensory process. Additionally, activation of Notch by cDNA electroporation in chick otocysts results in formation of ectopic sensory patches. Here we test whether Notch activity is sufficient for prosensory specification in the mouse, using a Cre-/loxP approach to conditionally activate the Notch pathway in nonsensory regions of the inner ear epithelia during different stages of otic vesicle morphogenesis. We find that broad ectopic activation of Notch at very early developmental stages causes induction of prosensory markers throughout the entire otic epithelium. At later stages of development, activation of Notch in nonsensory regions leads to induction of sensory patches that later differentiate to form complete ectopic sensory structures. Activation of Notch in isolated nonsensory cells results in lateral induction of Jag1 expression in neighboring cells and spreading of prosensory specification to the adjacent cells through an intercellular mechanism. These results support a model where activation of Notch and propagation through lateral induction promote prosensory character in specific regions of the developing otocyst.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1002827107
View details for Web of Science ID 000281637800032
View details for PubMedID 20798046
The Notch signaling pathway is known to play important roles in inner ear development. Previous studies have shown that the Notch1 receptor and ligands in the Delta and Jagged families are important for cellular differentiation and patterning of the organ of Corti. Delta/notch-like epidermal growth factor (EGF)-related receptor (DNER) is a novel Notch ligand expressed in developing and adult CNS neurons known to promote maturation of glia through activation of Notch. Here we use in situ hybridization and an antibody against DNER to carry out expression studies of the mouse cochlea and vestibule. We find that DNER is expressed in spiral ganglion neuron cell bodies and peripheral processes during embryonic development of the cochlea and expression in these cells is maintained in adults. DNER becomes strongly expressed in auditory hair cells during postnatal maturation in the mouse cochlea and immunoreactivity for this protein is strong in hair cells and afferent and efferent peripheral nerve endings in the adult organ of Corti. In the vestibular system, we find that DNER is expressed in hair cells and vestibular ganglion neurons during development and in adults. To investigate whether DNER plays a functional role in the inner ear, perhaps similar to its described role in glial maturation, we examined cochleae of DNER-/- mice using immunohistochemical markers of mature glia and supporting cells as well as neurons and hair cells. We found no defects in expression of markers of supporting cells and glia or myelin, and no abnormalities in hair cells or neurons, suggesting that DNER plays a redundant role with other Notch ligands in cochlear development.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s10162-009-0203-x
View details for Web of Science ID 000279397500004
View details for PubMedID 20058045
The Notch signaling pathway is known to have multiple roles during development of the inner ear. Notch signaling activates transcription of Hes5, a homologue of Drosophila hairy and enhancer of split, which encodes a basic helix-loop-helix transcriptional repressor. Previous studies have shown that Hes5 is expressed in the cochlea during embryonic development, and loss of Hes5 leads to overproduction of auditory and vestibular hair cells. However, due to technical limitations and inconsistency between previous reports, the precise spatial and temporal pattern of Hes5 expression in the postnatal and adult inner ear has remained unclear. In this study, we use Hes5-GFP transgenic mice and in situ hybridization to report the expression pattern of Hes5 in the inner ear. We find that Hes5 is expressed in the developing auditory epithelium of the cochlea beginning at embryonic day 14.5 (E14.5), becomes restricted to a particular subset of cochlear supporting cells, is downregulated in the postnatal cochlea, and is not present in adults. In the vestibular system, we detect Hes5 in developing supporting cells as early as E12.5 and find that Hes5 expression is maintained in some adult vestibular supporting cells. In order to determine the effect of hair cell damage on Notch signaling in the cochlea, we damaged cochlear hair cells of adult Hes5-GFP mice in vivo using injection of kanamycin and furosemide. Although outer hair cells were killed in treated animals and supporting cells were still present after damage, supporting cells did not upregulate Hes5-GFP in the damaged cochlea. Therefore, absence of Notch-Hes5 signaling in the normal and damaged adult cochlea is correlated with lack of regeneration potential, while its presence in the neonatal cochlea and adult vestibular epithelia is associated with greater capacity for plasticity or regeneration in these tissues; which suggests that this pathway may be involved in regulating regenerative potential.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s10162-009-0162-2
View details for Web of Science ID 000268495600002
View details for PubMedID 19373512
In cochlear development, the Notch signaling pathway is required for both the early prosensory phase and a later lateral inhibition phase. While it is known that Hes genes are important downstream mediators of Notch function in lateral inhibition, it is not known what genes function as mediators of the early prosensory function of Notch. We report that two members of the Hes-related gene family, Hesr1 and Hesr2, are expressed in the developing cochlea at a time and place that makes them excellent candidates as downstream mediators of Notch during prosensory specification. We also show that treatment of cochlear explant cultures at the time of prosensory specification with a small-molecule inhibitor of the Notch pathway mimics the results of conditional Jag1 deletion. This treatment also reduces Hesr1 and Hesr2 expression by as much as 80%. These results support the hypothesis that Hesr1 and Hesr2 are the downstream mediators of the prosensory function of Notch in early cochlear development.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.01.006
View details for Web of Science ID 000254845200008
View details for PubMedID 18291358
Notch mediates the process of lateral inhibition that controls the production of hair cells in the inner ear. Hair cells are known to express Notch ligands Dll1 and Jag2, which signal through Notch1 in adjacent supporting cells. However, recent genetic and pharmacological studies indicate that the level of Notch-mediated lateral inhibition is greater than can be accounted for by Dll1 and Jag2. Here, we report that another Notch ligand, Dll3, is expressed in developing hair cells, in a pattern that overlaps that of Dll1 and Jag2. We analyzed the cochleae of Dll3(pu) mutant mice, but did not detect any abnormalities. However, earlier studies have demonstrated that there is functional redundancy among Notch ligands in cochlear development and loss of one ligand can be at least partially compensated for by another. Thus Dll3 may play a role in lateral inhibition similar to that of Dll1 and Jag2.
View details for DOI 10.1002/dvdy.21307
View details for Web of Science ID 000250192100016
View details for PubMedID 17823936
In the developing nervous system, the balance between proliferation and differentiation is critical to generate the appropriate numbers and types of neurons and glia. Notch signaling maintains the progenitor pool throughout this process. While many components of the Notch pathway have been identified, the downstream molecular events leading to neural differentiation are not well understood. We have taken advantage of a small molecule inhibitor, DAPT, to block Notch activity in retinal progenitor cells, and analyzed the resulting molecular and cellular changes over time. DAPT treatment causes a massive, coordinated differentiation of progenitors that produces cell types appropriate for their developmental stage. Transient exposure of retina to DAPT for specific time periods allowed us to define the period of Notch inactivation that is required for a permanent commitment to differentiate. Inactivation of Notch signaling revealed a cascade of proneural bHLH transcription factor gene expression that correlates with stages in progenitor cell differentiation. Microarray/QPCR analysis confirms the changes in Notch signaling components, and reveals new molecular targets for investigating neuronal differentiation. Thus, transient inactivation of Notch signaling synchronizes progenitor cell differentiation, and allows for a systematic analysis of key steps in this process.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ydbio.2007.01.001
View details for Web of Science ID 000245819600004
View details for PubMedID 17280659