Single-cell RNA-Seq resolves cellular complexity in sensory organs from the neonatal inner ear

Nat Commun. 2015 Oct 15;6:8557. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9557.


In the inner ear, cochlear and vestibular sensory epithelia utilize grossly similar cell types to transduce different stimuli: sound and acceleration. Each individual sensory epithelium is composed of highly heterogeneous populations of cells based on physiological and anatomical criteria. However, limited numbers of each cell type have impeded transcriptional characterization. Here we generated transcriptomes for 301 single cells from the utricular and cochlear sensory epithelia of newborn mice to circumvent this challenge. Cluster analysis indicates distinct profiles for each of the major sensory epithelial cell types, as well as less-distinct sub-populations. Asynchrony within utricles allows reconstruction of the temporal progression of cell-type-specific differentiation and suggests possible plasticity among cells at the sensory-nonsensory boundary. Comparisons of cell types from utricles and cochleae demonstrate divergence between auditory and vestibular cells, despite a common origin. These results provide significant insights into the developmental processes that form unique inner ear cell types.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / metabolism*
  • Hair Cells, Vestibular / metabolism*
  • Labyrinth Supporting Cells / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Transcriptome

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE71982