Differential expression of espin isoforms during epithelial morphogenesis, stereociliogenesis and postnatal maturation in the developing inner ear

Dev Biol. 2006 Mar 1;291(1):83-95. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2005.12.021. Epub 2006 Jan 17.


The espins are a family of multifunctional actin cytoskeletal proteins. They are present in hair cell stereocilia and are the target of mutations that cause deafness and vestibular dysfunction. Here, we demonstrate that the different espin isoforms are expressed in complex spatiotemporal patterns during inner ear development. Espin 3 isoforms were prevalent in the epithelium of the otic pit, otocyst and membranous labyrinth as they underwent morphogenesis. This espin was down-regulated ahead of hair cell differentiation and during neuroblast delamination. Espin also accumulated in the epithelium of branchial clefts and pharyngeal pouches and during branching morphogenesis in other embryonic epithelial tissues, suggesting general roles for espins in epithelial morphogenesis. Espin reappeared later in inner ear development in differentiating hair cells. Its levels and compartmentalization to stereocilia increased during the formation and maturation of stereociliary bundles. Late in embryonic development, espin was also present in a tail-like process that emanated from the hair cell base. Increases in the levels of espin 1 and espin 4 isoforms correlated with stereocilium elongation and maturation in the vestibular system and cochlea, respectively. Our results suggest that the different espin isoforms play specific roles in actin cytoskeletal regulation during epithelial morphogenesis and hair cell differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cochlea / embryology
  • Cochlea / growth & development
  • Cochlea / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Ear, Inner / embryology*
  • Ear, Inner / growth & development*
  • Ear, Inner / metabolism
  • Epithelium / embryology
  • Epithelium / growth & development
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / embryology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / growth & development*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / metabolism
  • Lacrimal Apparatus / embryology
  • Lacrimal Apparatus / growth & development
  • Lacrimal Apparatus / metabolism
  • Lung / embryology
  • Lung / growth & development
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Morphogenesis
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / embryology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / growth & development
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / metabolism


  • Espn protein, rat
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • espin protein, mouse