The zebrafish is an especially attractive model for the study of the development and function of the vertebrate inner ear. It combines rapid and accessible embryogenesis with a host of genetic and genomic tools for systematic gene discovery and analysis. A large collection of mutations affecting development and function of the ear and a related sensory system, the lateral line, have been isolated; several of these have now been cloned, and at least five provide models for human deafness disorders. Disruption of multiple genes, using both forward and reverse genetic approaches, has established key players--both signaling molecules and autonomous factors--responsible for induction and specification of the otic placode. Vestibular and auditory defects have been detected in adult animals, making the zebrafish a useful system in which to tackle the genetic causes of late onset deafness and vestibular disease.
Copyright 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.