Cell adhesion molecules during inner ear and hair cell development, including notch and its ligands

Curr Top Dev Biol. 2003;57:321-56. doi: 10.1016/s0070-2153(03)57011-9.


Cellular adhesion plays a key role in a number of unique developmental events, including proliferation, cell fate, morphogenesis, neurite outgrowth, fasciculation, and synaptogensis. The number of families of molecules that can mediate cell adhesion and the number of members of each of those families has continued to increase over time. Moreover, the potential for the formation of different pairs of heterodimers with different binding specificities, and for both homo- and hetero-dimeric interactions suggest that a vast number of specific signaling events can be mediated through the expression of different combinations of adhesion factors at different developmental time points. By comparison with the number of known adhesion molecules and their potential effects, our understanding of the role of adhesion in ear development is extremely limited. The patterns of expression for some adhesion molecules have been determined for some aspects of inner ear development. Similarly, with a few exceptions, functional data to indicate the roles of these adhesion molecules are also lacking. However, a consideration of even the limited existing data must lead to the conclusion that adhesion molecules play key roles in all aspects of the development of the auditory system. Unique expression domains for different groups of adhesion molecules within the developing otocyst and ear strongly suggest a role in the determination of different cellular domains. Similarly, the specific expression of adhesion molecules on developing neurites and their target hair cells, suggests a key role for adhesion in the establishment of neuronal connections and possible the development of tonotopy. Finally, the recent demonstration that Cdh23 and Pcdh15 play specific roles in the formation of the hair cell stereociliary bundle provides compelling evidence for the importance of adhesion molecules in the development of stereocilia. With the imminent completion of the mouse genome, it seems likely that the number of adhesion molecules can soon be fixed and that it will then be possible to generate a more comprehensive map of expression of these molecules within the developing inner ear. At the same time, the generation of new transgenic and molecular technologies promises to provide researchers with new tools to examine the specific effects of different adhesion molecules during inner ear development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Ear, Inner / embryology
  • Ear, Inner / growth & development*
  • Ear, Inner / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / embryology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / growth & development*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / metabolism
  • Integrins / metabolism
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Notch
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism


  • Cadherins
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Integrins
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Notch
  • Trans-Activators