Although the zebrafish has become an important model for genetic analysis of the vertebrate auditory system, a comprehensive description of the zebrafish ear has been provided for embryonic and larval development only (Haddon and Lewis  J. Comp. Neurol. 365:113). Here we describe the development of sensory maculae in juvenile fish and the morphology of the adult zebrafish ear. This description was obtained via three-dimensional reconstruction of serial sections and confocal microscopy of immunolabeled preparations and includes the Weberian ossicles and fluid spaces. Phalloidin staining, which labels actin filaments of stereocilia, was used to delineate the sensory epithelia, to visualize the distribution of hair cells, to estimate their density in different areas of the maculae, and to perform hair cell counts. Morphology of ciliary bundles in different regions of the lagena, saccule, utricle, macula neglecta, and cristae was characterized with an anti-acetylated tubulin antibody and by phalloidin staining. We have identified two antibodies characterized by region-specific staining patterns in the inner ear epithelia. Zn-1 antibody staining largely correlates with the presence of short-bundle hair cells in the peripheral regions of sensory epithelia. Zn-4 antibody, on the other hand, labels a zone of epithelial cells surrounding the sensory maculae. These analyses extend previous observations of cell-type heterogeneity in both sensory and nonsensory epithelia of the fish ear.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.