Early Wnt Signaling Activation Promotes Inner Ear Differentiation via Cell Caudalization in Mouse Stem Cell-Derived Organoids

Stem Cells. 2023 Jan 30;41(1):26-38. doi: 10.1093/stmcls/sxac071.


The inner ear is derived from the otic placode, one of the numerous cranial sensory placodes that emerges from the pre-placodal ectoderm (PPE) along its anterior-posterior axis. However, the molecular dynamics underlying how the PPE is regionalized are poorly resolved. We used stem cell-derived organoids to investigate the effects of Wnt signaling on early PPE differentiation and found that modulating Wnt signaling significantly increased inner ear organoid induction efficiency and reproducibility. Alongside single-cell RNA sequencing, our data reveal that the canonical Wnt signaling pathway leads to PPE regionalization and, more specifically, medium Wnt levels during the early stage induce (1) expansion of the caudal neural plate border (NPB), which serves as a precursor for the posterior PPE, and (2) a caudal microenvironment that is required for otic specification. Our data further demonstrate Wnt-mediated induction of rostral and caudal cells in organoids and more broadly suggest that Wnt signaling is critical for anterior-posterior patterning in the PPE.

Keywords: Wnt; inner ear; organoid; otic placode; pre-placodal ectoderm; single-cell-RNA sequencing; stem cell.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Ear, Inner* / metabolism
  • Ectoderm / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Mice
  • Organoids
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Stem Cells
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway*