ZIC genes, vertebrate homologues of the Drosophila pair-rule gene odd-paired (opa), function in embryonic pattern formation, in the early stages of central nervous system neurogenesis and in cerebellar maturation. Mouse Zic genes are expressed in restricted, and in some cases overlapping, patterns during development, particularly in the central and peripheral nervous systems. We identified chick ZIC2 in a differential display analysis of the auditory system designed to find genes up-regulated after noise trauma. In this study, we examined the expression of chick ZIC1, ZIC2, and ZIC3 by in situ hybridization in normal inner ear development and in the tissues that influence its development, including the hindbrain, the neural crest, and the periotic mesenchyme. Between Hamburger and Hamilton stages 13 and 24, all three ZIC genes were found in the dorsal periotic mesenchyme adjacent to the developing inner ear. ZIC1 mRNA was expressed in the otocyst epithelium between stages 12 and 24, in some sensory tissue, as well as in a striped pattern in the floorplate of the hindbrain that appears to be complementary to that of Chordin, a gene known to regulate ZIC expression in frogs. Chick ZIC genes are also expressed in the neuroectoderm, paraxial mesenchyme, brain, spinal cord, neural crest, and/or the overlying ectoderm as well as the limb buds. In general, ZIC1 and ZIC2 expression patterns overlapped, although ZIC2 expression was less robust; ZIC3 expression was minimal. These observations suggest that ZIC genes, in addition to their known roles in brain development, may play an important role in the development of the chick inner ear.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.