Epibranchial placodes are the geniculate, petrosal and nodose placodes that generate parts of cranial nerves VII, IX and X, respectively. How the three spatially separated placodes are derived from the common posterior placodal area is poorly understood. Here, we reveal that the broad posterior placode area is first patterned into a Vgll2+/Irx5+ rostral domain and a Sox2+/Fgf3+/Etv5+ caudal domain relative to the first pharyngeal cleft. This initial rostral and caudal patterning is then sequentially repeated along each pharyngeal cleft for each epibranchial placode. The caudal domains give rise to the neuronal and non-neuronal cells in the placode, whereas the rostral domains are previously unrecognized structures, serving as spacers between the final placodes. Notch signalling regulates the balance between the rostral and caudal domains: high levels of Notch signalling expand the caudal domain at the expense of the rostral domain, whereas loss of Notch signalling produces the converse phenotype. Collectively, these data unravel a new patterning principle for the early phases of epibranchial placode development and a role for Notch signalling in orchestrating epibranchial placode segregation and differentiation.
Keywords: Epibranchial placode; Mouse; N1ICD; Notch signalling; Pharyngeal ectoderm; Rbpj.
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