MicroRNAs (miRNAs) post-transcriptionally repress complementary target gene expression and can contribute to cell differentiation. The coordinate expression of miRNA-183 family members (miR-183, miR-96, and miR-182) has been demonstrated in sensory cells of the mouse inner ear and other vertebrate sensory organs. To further examine hair cell miRNA expression in the mouse inner ear, we have analyzed miR-183 family expression in wild type animals and various mutants with defects in neurosensory development. miR-183 family member expression follows neurosensory cell specification, exhibits longitudinal (basal-apical) gradients in maturating cochlear hair cells, and is maintained in sensory neurons and most hair cells into adulthood. Depletion of hair cell miRNAs resulting from Dicer1 conditional knockout (CKO) in Atoh1-Cre transgenic mice leads to more disparate basal-apical gene expression profiles and eventual hair cell loss. Results suggest that hair cell miRNAs subdue cochlear gradient gene expression and are required for hair cell maintenance and survival.
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