Conditional deletion of Atoh1 using Pax2-Cre results in viable mice without differentiated cochlear hair cells that have lost most of the organ of Corti.
ABSTRACT: Atonal homolog1 (Atoh1, formerly Math1) is a crucial bHLH transcription factor for inner ear hair cell differentiation. Its absence in embryos results in complete absence of mature hair cells at birth and its misexpression can generate extra hair cells. Thus Atoh1 may be both necessary and sufficient for hair cell differentiation in the ear. Atoh1 null mice die at birth and have some undifferentiated cells in sensory epithelia carrying Atoh1 markers. The fate of these undifferentiated cells in neonates is unknown due to lethality. We use Tg(Pax2-Cre) to delete floxed Atoh1 in the inner ear. This generates viable conditional knockout (CKO) mice for studying the postnatal development of the inner ear without differentiated hair cells. Using in situ hybridization we find that Tg(Pax2-Cre) recombines the floxed Atoh1 prior to detectable Atoh1 expression. Only the posterior canal crista has Atoh1 expressing hair cells due to incomplete recombination. Most of the organ of Corti cells are lost in CKO mice via late embryonic cell death. Marker genes indicate that the organ of Corti is reduced to two rows of cells wedged between flanking markers of the organ of Corti (Fgf10 and Bmp4). These two rows of cells (instead of five rows of supporting cells) are positive for Prox1 in neonates. By postnatal day 14 (P14), the remaining cells of the organ of Corti are transformed into a flat epithelium with no distinction of any specific cell type. However, some of the remaining organ of Corti cells express Myo7a at late postnatal stages and are innervated by remaining afferent fibers. Initial growth of afferents and efferents in embryos shows no difference between control mice and Tg(Pax2-Cre)::Atoh1 CKO mice. Most afferents and efferents are lost in the CKO mutant before birth, except for the apex and few fibers in the base. Afferents focus their projections on patches that express the prosensory specifying gene, Sox2. This pattern of innervation by sensory neurons is maintained at least until P14, but fibers target the few Myo7a positive cells found in later stages.
Project description:Atonal homolog1 (Atoh1) is a bHLH transcription factor essential for inner ear hair cell differentiation. Targeted expression of Atoh1 at various stages in development can result in hair cell differentiation in the ear. However, the level and duration of Atoh1 expression required for proper hair cell differentiation and maintenance remain unknown. We generated an Atoh1 conditional knockout (CKO) mouse line using Tg(Atoh1-cre), in which the cre expression is driven by an Atoh1 enhancer element that is regulated by Atoh1 protein to "self-terminate" its expression. The mutant mice show transient, limited expression of Atoh1 in all hair cells in the ear. In the organ of Corti, reduction and delayed deletion of Atoh1 result in progressive loss of almost all the inner hair cells and the majority of the outer hair cells within three weeks after birth. The remaining cells express hair cell marker Myo7a and attract nerve fibers, but do not differentiate normal stereocilia bundles. Some Myo7a-positive cells persist in the cochlea into adult stages in the position of outer hair cells, flanked by a single row of pillar cells and two to three rows of disorganized Deiters cells. Gene expression analyses of Atoh1, Barhl1 and Pou4f3, genes required for survival and maturation of hair cells, reveal earlier and higher expression levels in the inner compared to the outer hair cells. Our data show that Atoh1 is crucial for hair cell mechanotransduction development, viability, and maintenance and also suggest that Atoh1 expression level and duration may play a role in inner vs. outer hair cell development. These genetically engineered Atoh1 CKO mice provide a novel model for establishing critical conditions needed to regenerate viable and functional hair cells with Atoh1 therapy.
Project description:At least five bHLH genes regulate cell fate determination and differentiation of sensory neurons, hair cells and supporting cells in the mammalian inner ear. Cross-regulation of Atoh1 and Neurog1 results in hair cell changes in Neurog1 null mice although the nature and mechanism of the cross-regulation has not yet been determined. Neurod1, regulated by both Neurog1 and Atoh1, could be the mediator of this cross-regulation.We used Tg(Pax2-Cre) to conditionally delete Neurod1 in the inner ear. Our data demonstrate for the first time that the absence of Neurod1 results in formation of hair cells within the inner ear sensory ganglia. Three cell types, neural crest derived Schwann cells and mesenchyme derived fibroblasts (neither expresses Neurod1) and inner ear derived neurons (which express Neurod1) constitute inner ear ganglia. The most parsimonious explanation is that Neurod1 suppresses the alternative fate of sensory neurons to develop as hair cells. In the absence of Neurod1, Atoh1 is expressed and differentiates cells within the ganglion into hair cells. We followed up on this effect in ganglia by demonstrating that Neurod1 also regulates differentiation of subtypes of hair cells in the organ of Corti. We show that in Neurod1 conditional null mice there is a premature expression of several genes in the apex of the developing cochlea and outer hair cells are transformed into inner hair cells.Our data suggest that the long noted cross-regulation of Atoh1 expression by Neurog1 might actually be mediated in large part by Neurod1. We suggest that Neurod1 is regulated by both Neurog1 and Atoh1 and provides a negative feedback for either gene. Through this and other feedback, Neurod1 suppresses alternate fates of neurons to differentiate as hair cells and regulates hair cell subtypes.
Project description:In the mammalian inner ear neurosensory cell fate depends on three closely related transcription factors, Atoh1 for hair cells and Neurog1 and Neurod1 for neurons. We have previously shown that neuronal cell fate can be altered towards hair cell fate by eliminating Neurod1 mediated repression of Atoh1 expression in neurons. To test whether a similar plasticity is present in hair cell fate commitment, we have generated a knockin (KI) mouse line (Atoh1(KINeurog1)) in which Atoh1 is replaced by Neurog1. Expression of Neurog1 under Atoh1 promoter control alters the cellular gene expression pattern, differentiation and survival of hair cell precursors in both heterozygous (Atoh1(+/KINeurog1)) and homozygous (Atoh1(KINeurog1/KINeurog1)) KI mice. Homozygous KI mice develop patches of organ of Corti precursor cells that express Neurog1, Neurod1, several prosensory genes and neurotrophins. In addition, these patches of cells receive afferent and efferent processes. Some cells among these patches form multiple microvilli but no stereocilia. Importantly, Neurog1 expressing mutants differ from Atoh1 null mutants, as they have intermittent formation of organ of Corti-like patches, opposed to a complete 'flat epithelium' in the absence of Atoh1. In heterozygous KI mice co-expression of Atoh1 and Neurog1 results in change in fate and patterning of some hair cells and supporting cells in addition to the abnormal hair cell polarity in the later stages of development. This differs from haploinsufficiency of Atoh1 (Pax2cre; Atoh1(f/+)), indicating the effect of Neurog1 expression in developing hair cells. Our data suggest that Atoh1(KINeurog1) can provide some degree of functional support for survival of organ of Corti cells. In contrast to the previously demonstrated fate plasticity of neurons to differentiate as hair cells, hair cell precursors can be maintained for a limited time by Neurog1 but do not transdifferentiate as neurons.
Project description:BACKGROUND: In mammals, hair cells do not undergo spontaneous regeneration when they are damaged and result in permanent hearing loss. Previous studies in cultured Organ of Corti dissected from neonatal animals have shown that both DAPT (r-secretase inhibitor in the Notch signal pathway) treatment and Atoh1 overexpression can induce supernumerary hair cells. The effects of simultaneous DAPT treatment and Atoh1 over expression in the cells of cultured Organ of Corti from neonatal rats are still obscure. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In this study, we set out to investigate the interaction of DAPT treatment and Atoh1 overexpression as well as culture time and the location of basilar fragment isolated form neonatal rat inner ear. Our results showed that DAPT treatment induced more hair cells in the apical turn, while Atoh1 overexpression induced more extra hair cells in the middle turn of the cultured Organ of Corti. When used together, their effects are additive but not synergistic. In addition, the induction of supernumerary hair cells by both DAPT and Atoh1 overexpression is dependent on the treatment time and the location of the cochlear tissue. Moreover, DAPT treatment causes dramatic changes in the orientation of the stereociliary bundles of hair cells, whereas Atoh1 overexpression didn't induce drastic change of the polarity of stereociliary bundles. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Taken together, these results suggest that DAPT treatment are much more potent in inducing supernumerary hair cells than Atoh1 overexpression and that the new hair cells mainly come from the trans-differentiation of supporting cells around hair cells. The orientation change of stereociliary bundle of hair cells may be attributed to the insertion of the newly formed hair cells. The immature hair bundles on the newly formed hair cells may also contribute to the overall chaos of the stereociliary bundle of the sensory epithelia.
Project description:The organ of Corti in the cochlea is a two-cell layered epithelium: one cell layer of mechanosensory hair cells that align into one row of inner and three rows of outer hair cells interdigitated with one cell layer of underlying supporting cells along the entire length of the cochlear spiral. These two types of epithelial cells are derived from common precursors in the four- to five-cell layered primordium and acquire functionally important shapes during terminal differentiation through the thinning process and convergent extension. Here, we have examined the role of Six1 in the establishment of the auditory sensory epithelium. Our data show that prior to terminal differentiation of the precursor cells, deletion of Six1 leads to formation of only a few hair cells and defective patterning of the sensory epithelium. Previous studies have suggested that downregulation of Sox2 expression in differentiating hair cells must occur after Atoh1 mRNA activation in order to allow Atoh1 protein accumulation due to antagonistic effects between Atoh1 and Sox2. Our analysis indicates that downregulation of Sox2 in the differentiating hair cells depends on Six1 activity. Furthermore, we found that Six1 is required for the maintenance of Fgf8 expression and dynamic distribution of N-cadherin and E-cadherin in the organ of Corti during differentiation. Together, our analyses uncover essential roles of Six1 in hair cell differentiation and formation of the organ of Corti in the mammalian cochlea.
Project description:In the developing cochlea, sensory hair cell differentiation depends on the regulated expression of the bHLH transcription factor Atoh1. In mammals, if hair cells die they do not regenerate, leading to permanent deafness. By contrast, in non-mammalian vertebrates robust regeneration occurs through upregulation of Atoh1 in the surviving supporting cells that surround hair cells, leading to functional recovery. Investigation of crucial transcriptional events in the developing organ of Corti, including those involving Atoh1, has been hampered by limited accessibility to purified populations of the small number of cells present in the inner ear. We used µChIP and qPCR assays of FACS-purified cells to track changes in the epigenetic status of the Atoh1 locus during sensory epithelia development in the mouse. Dynamic changes in the histone modifications H3K4me3/H3K27me3, H3K9ac and H3K9me3 reveal a progression from poised, to active, to repressive marks, correlating with the onset of Atoh1 expression and its subsequent silencing during the perinatal (P1 to P6) period. Inhibition of acetylation blocked the increase in Atoh1 mRNA in nascent hair cells, as well as ongoing hair cell differentiation during embryonic organ of Corti development ex vivo. These results reveal an epigenetic mechanism of Atoh1 regulation underlying hair cell differentiation and subsequent maturation. Interestingly, the H3K4me3/H3K27me3 bivalent chromatin structure observed in progenitors persists at the Atoh1 locus in perinatal supporting cells, suggesting an explanation for the latent capacity of these cells to transdifferentiate into hair cells, and highlighting their potential as therapeutic targets in hair cell regeneration.
Project description:The mammalian organ of Corti of the inner ear is a highly sophisticated sensory end organ responsible for detecting sound. Noggin is a secreted glycoprotein, which antagonizes bone morphogenetic proteins 2 and 4 (Bmp2 and Bmp4). The lack of this antagonist causes increased rows of inner and outer hair cells in the organ of Corti. In mice, Bmp2 is expressed transiently in nascent cochlear hair cells. To investigate whether Noggin normally modulates the levels of Bmp2 for hair cell formation, we deleted Bmp2 in the cochlear hair cells using two cre strains, Foxg1(cre/+) and Gfi1(cre/+). Bmp2 conditional knockout cochleae generated using these two cre strains show normal hair cells. Furthermore, Gfi1(cre/+);Bmp2(lox/-) mice are viable and have largely normal hearing. The combined results of Noggin and Bmp2 mutants suggest that Noggin is likely to regulate other Bmps in the cochlea such as Bmp4.
Project description:The mammalian inner ear detects sound with the organ of Corti, an intricately patterned region of the cochlea in which one row of inner hair cells and three rows of outer hair cells are surrounded by specialized supporting cells. The organ of Corti derives from a prosensory domain that runs the length of the cochlear duct and is bounded by two nonsensory domains, Kölliker's organ on the neural side and the outer sulcus on the abneural side. Although much progress has been made in identifying the signals regulating organ of Corti induction and differentiation, less is known about the mechanisms that establish sensory and nonsensory territories in the cochlear duct. Here, we show that a gradient of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling is established in the abneural-neural axis of the cochlea. Analysis of compound mutants of Alk3/6 type I BMP receptors shows that BMP signaling is necessary for specification of the prosensory domain destined to form the organ of Corti. Reduction of BMP signaling in Alk3/6 compound mutants eliminates both the future outer sulcus and the prosensory domain, with all cells expressing markers of Kölliker's organ. BMP4 upregulates markers of the future outer sulcus and downregulates marker genes of Kölliker's organ in cochlear organ cultures in a dose-dependent manner. Our results suggest BMP signaling is required for patterning sensory and nonsensory tissue in the mammalian cochlea.
Project description:During the development of the inner ear, the Notch cell signaling pathway is responsible for the specification of the pro-sensory domain and influences cell fate decisions. It is assumed that Notch signaling ends during maturity and cannot be reinitiated to alter the fate of new or existing cells in the organ of Corti. This is in contrast to non-mammalian species which reinitiate Delta 1-Notch1 signaling in response to trauma in the auditory epithelium, resulting in hair cell regeneration through transdifferentiation and/or mitosis. We report immunohistochemical data and Western protein analysis showing that in the aminoglycoside-damaged guinea pig organ of Corti, there is an increase in proteins involved in Notch activation occurring within 24h of a chemical hair cell lesion. The signaling response is characterized by the increased presence of Jagged1 ligand in pillar and Deiters cells, Notch1 signal in surviving supporting cell nuclei, and the absence of Jagged2 and Delta-like1. The pro-sensory bHLH protein Atoh1 was absent at all time points following an ototoxic lesion, while the repressor bHLH transcription factors Hes1 and Hes5 were detected in surviving supporting cell nuclei in the former inner and outer hair cell areas, respectively. Notch pathway proteins peaked at 2 weeks, decreased at 1 month, and nearly disappeared by 2 months. These results indicate that the mammalian auditory epithelium retains the ability to regulate Notch signaling and Notch-dependent Hes activity in response to cellular trauma and that the signaling is transient. Additionally, since Hes activity antagonizes the transcription of pro-sensory Atoh1, the presence of Hes after a lesion may prohibit the occurrence of transdifferentiation in the surviving supporting cells.
Project description:Intense noise damages the cochlear organ of Corti, particularly the outer hair cells (OHCs) ; however, this epithelium is not innervated by nociceptors of somatosensory ganglia, which detect damage elsewhere in the body. The only sensory neurons innervating the organ of Corti originate from the spiral ganglion, roughly 95% of which innervate exclusively inner hair cells (IHCs) [2-4]. Upon sound stimulation, IHCs release glutamate to activate AMPA-type receptors on these myelinated type-I neurons, which carry the neuronal signals to the cochlear nucleus. The remaining spiral ganglion cells (type IIs) are unmyelinated and contact OHCs [2-4]. Their function is unknown. Using immunoreactivity to cFos, we documented neuronal activation in the brainstem of Vglut3(-/-) mice, in which the canonical auditory pathway (activation of type-I afferents by glutamate released from inner hair cells) is silenced [5, 6]. In these deaf mice, we found responses to noxious noise, which damages hair cells, but not to innocuous noise, in neurons of the cochlear nucleus, but not in the vestibular or trigeminal nuclei. This response originates in the cochlea and not in other areas also stimulated by intense noise (middle ear and vestibule) as it was absent in CD1 mice with selective cochlear degeneration but normal vestibular and somatosensory function. These data imply the existence of an alternative neuronal pathway from cochlea to brainstem that is activated by tissue-damaging noise and does not require glutamate release from IHCs. This detection of noise-induced tissue damage, possibly by type-II cochlear afferents, represents a novel form of sensation that we term auditory nociception.