Frizzled3 and Frizzled6 Cooperate with Vangl2 to Direct Cochlear Innervation by Type II Spiral Ganglion Neurons

J Neurosci. 2019 Oct 9;39(41):8013-8023. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1740-19.2019. Epub 2019 Aug 28.


Type II spiral ganglion neurons provide afferent innervation to outer hair cells of the cochlea and are proposed to have nociceptive functions important for auditory function and homeostasis. These neurons are anatomically distinct from other classes of spiral ganglion neurons because they extend a peripheral axon beyond the inner hair cells that subsequently makes a distinct 90 degree turn toward the cochlear base. As a result, patterns of outer hair cell innervation are coordinated with the tonotopic organization of the cochlea. Previously, it was shown that peripheral axon turning is directed by a nonautonomous function of the core planar cell polarity (PCP) protein VANGL2. We demonstrate using mice of either sex that Fzd3 and Fzd6 similarly regulate axon turning, are functionally redundant with each other, and that Fzd3 genetically interacts with Vangl2 to guide this process. FZD3 and FZD6 proteins are asymmetrically distributed along the basolateral wall of cochlear-supporting cells, and are required to promote or maintain the asymmetric distribution of VANGL2 and CELSR1. These data indicate that intact PCP complexes formed between cochlear-supporting cells are required for the nonautonomous regulation of axon pathfinding. Consistent with this, in the absence of PCP signaling, peripheral axons turn randomly and often project toward the cochlear apex. Additional analyses of Porcn mutants in which WNT secretion is reduced suggest that noncanonical WNT signaling establishes or maintains PCP signaling in this context. A deeper understanding of these mechanisms is necessary for repairing auditory circuits following acoustic trauma or promoting cochlear reinnervation during regeneration-based deafness therapies.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Planar cell polarity (PCP) signaling has emerged as a complementary mechanism to classical axon guidance in regulating axon track formation, axon outgrowth, and neuronal polarization. The core PCP proteins are also required for auditory circuit assembly, and coordinate hair cell innervation with the tonotopic organization of the cochlea. This is a non-cell-autonomous mechanism that requires the formation of PCP protein complexes between cochlear-supporting cells located along the trajectory of growth cone navigation. These findings are significant because they demonstrate how the fidelity of auditory circuit formation is ensured during development, and provide a mechanism by which PCP proteins may regulate axon outgrowth and guidance in the CNS.

Keywords: auditory; axon; cochlea; frizzled; planar cell polarity; spiral ganglia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases / genetics
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cell Polarity
  • Cochlea / growth & development
  • Cochlea / innervation*
  • Female
  • Frizzled Receptors / physiology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Outer
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Organ of Corti / growth & development
  • Organ of Corti / physiology
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology
  • Spiral Ganglion / cytology*
  • Spiral Ganglion / growth & development
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / genetics
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / physiology


  • Celsr1 protein, mouse
  • Frizzled Receptors
  • Fzd3 protein, mouse
  • Fzd6 protein, mouse
  • Ltap protein, mouse
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Acyltransferases
  • Porcn protein, mouse