The epithelial components of the vertebrate inner ear and its associated ganglion arise from the otic placode. The cell types formed include neurons, hair-cell mechanoreceptors, supporting cells, secretory cells that make endolymphatic fluid or otolithic membranes, and simple epithelial cells lining the fluid-filled cavities. The epithelial sheet is surrounded by an inner layer of connective and vascular tissues and an outer capsule of bone. To explore the mechanisms of cell fate specification in the ear, retrovirus-mediated lineage analysis was performed after injecting virus into the chicken otocyst on embryonic days 2.5-5.5. Because lineage analysis might reveal developmental compartments, an effort was made to study clonal dispersion by sampling infected cells from different parts of the same ear, including the auditory ganglion, cochlea, saccule, utricle, and semicircular canals. Lineage relationships were confirmed for 75 clones by amplification and sequencing of a variable DNA tag carried by each virus. While mesenchymal clones could span different structural parts of the ear, epithelial clones did not. The circumscribed epithelial clones indicated that their progenitors were not highly migratory. Ganglion cell clones, in contrast, were more dispersed. There was no evidence for a common lineage between sensory cells and their associated neurons, a prediction based on a proposal that the ear sensory organs and fly mechanosensory organs are evolutionarily homologous. As expected, placodal derivatives were unrelated to adjacent mesenchymal cells or to nonneuronal cells of the ganglion. Within the otic capsule, fibroblasts and cartilage cells could be related by lineage.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.