Doctor of Philosophy, Eberhard Karls Universitat Tubingen (2010)
Stefan Heller, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
The organ of Corti harbors highly specialized sensory hair cells and surrounding supporting cells that are essential for the sense of hearing. Here, we report a single cell gene expression data analysis and visualization strategy that allows for the construction of a quantitative spatial map of the neonatal organ of Corti along its major anatomical axes. The map displays gene expression levels of 192 genes for all organ of Corti cell types ordered along the apex-to-base axis of the cochlea. Statistical interrogation of cell-type-specific gene expression patterns along the longitudinal gradient revealed features of apical supporting cells indicative of a propensity for proliferative hair cell regeneration. This includes reduced expression of Notch effectors, receptivity for canonical Wnt signaling, and prominent expression of early cell-cycle genes. Cochlear hair cells displayed expression gradients of genes indicative of cellular differentiation and the establishment of the tonotopic axis.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.04.062
View details for Web of Science ID 000356069500007
Sensorineural hearing loss is most commonly caused by the death of hair cells in the organ of Corti, and once lost, mammalian hair cells do not regenerate. In contrast, other vertebrates such as birds can regenerate hair cells by stimulating division and differentiation of neighboring supporting cells. We currently know little of the genetic networks which become active in supporting cells when hair cells die and that are activated in experimental models of hair cell regeneration. Several studies have shown that neonatal mammalian cochlear supporting cells are able to trans-differentiate into hair cells when cultured in conditions in which the Notch signaling pathway is blocked. We now show that the ability of cochlear supporting cells to trans-differentiate declines precipitously after birth, such that supporting cells from six-day-old mouse cochlea are entirely unresponsive to a blockade of the Notch pathway. We show that this trend is seen regardless of whether the Notch pathway is blocked with gamma secretase inhibitors, or by antibodies against the Notch1 receptor, suggesting that the action of gamma secretase inhibitors on neonatal supporting cells is likely to be by inhibiting Notch receptor cleavage. The loss of responsiveness to inhibition of the Notch pathway in the first postnatal week is due in part to a down-regulation of Notch receptors and ligands, and we show that this down-regulation persists in the adult animal, even under conditions of noise damage. Our data suggest that the Notch pathway is used to establish the repeating pattern of hair cells and supporting cells in the organ of Corti, but is not required to maintain this cellular mosaic once the production of hair cells and supporting cells is completed. Our results have implications for the proposed used of Notch pathway inhibitors in hearing restoration therapies.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fncel.2015.00110
View details for PubMedID 25873862
In mammals, the permanence of many forms of hearing loss is the result of the inner ear's inability to replace lost sensory hair cells. Here, we apply a differentiation strategy to human embryonic stem cells into cells of the otic lineage using chemically-defined attached-substrate conditions. Generation of human otic progenitor cells was dependent on FGF signaling and protracted culture led to the upregulation of markers indicative of differentiated inner ear sensory epithelia. Using a transgenic embryonic stem cell reporter line based on a murine Atoh1 enhancer, we show that differentiated hair cell-like cells express multiple hair cell markers simultaneously. Hair cell-like cells displayed protrusions reminiscent of stereociliary bundles, but failed to fully mature into cells with typical hair cell cytoarchitecture. We conclude that optimized defined conditions can be used in vitro to attain otic progenitor specification and sensory cell differentiation.
View details for DOI 10.1089/scd.2014.0033
View details for Web of Science ID 000336959800011
View details for PubMedID 24512547
The otocyst harbors progenitors for most cell types of the mature inner ear. Developmental lineage analyses and gene expression studies suggest that distinct progenitor populations are compartmentalized to discrete axial domains in the early otocyst. Here, we conducted highly parallel quantitative RT-PCR measurements on 382 individual cells from the developing otocyst and neuroblast lineages to assay 96 genes representing established otic markers, signaling-pathway-associated transcripts, and novel otic-specific genes. By applying multivariate cluster, principal component, and network analyses to the data matrix, we were able to readily distinguish the delaminating neuroblasts and to describe progressive states of gene expression in this population at single-cell resolution. It further established a three-dimensional model of the otocyst in which each individual cell can be precisely mapped into spatial expression domains. Our bioinformatic modeling revealed spatial dynamics of different signaling pathways active during early neuroblast development and prosensory domain specification. PAPERFLICK:
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2014.03.036
View details for Web of Science ID 000335765500022
The motor protein, prestin, situated in the basolateral plasma membrane of cochlear outer hair cells (OHCs), underlies the generation of somatic, voltage-driven mechanical force, the basis for the exquisite sensitivity, frequency selectivity and dynamic range of mammalian hearing. The molecular and structural basis of the ontogenetic development of this electromechanical force has remained elusive. The present study demonstrates that this force is significantly reduced when the immature subcellular distribution of prestin found along the entire plasma membrane persists into maturity, as has been described in previous studies under hypothyroidism. This observation suggests that cochlear amplification is critically dependent on the surface expression and distribution of prestin. Searching for proteins involved in organizing the subcellular localization of prestin to the basolateral plasma membrane, we identified cochlear expression of a novel truncated prestin splice isoform named prestin 9b (Slc26A5d) that contains a putative PDZ domain-binding motif. Using prestin 9b as the bait in a yeast two-hybrid assay, we identified a calcium/calmodulin-dependent serine protein kinase (CASK) as an interaction partner of prestin. Co-immunoprecipitation assays showed that CASK and prestin 9b can interact with full-length prestin. CASK was co-localized with prestin in a membrane domain where prestin-expressing OHC membrane abuts prestin-free OHC membrane, but was absent from this area for thyroid hormone deficiency. These findings suggest that CASK and the truncated prestin splice isoform contribute to confinement of prestin to the basolateral region of the plasma membrane. By means of such an interaction, the basal junction region between the OHC and its Deiter's cell may contribute to efficient generation of somatic electromechanical force.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s00418-013-1085-x
View details for Web of Science ID 000322490700003
View details for PubMedID 23542924
In the adult mammalian auditory epithelium, the organ of Corti, loss of sensory hair cells results in permanent hearing loss. The underlying cause for the lack of regenerative response is the depletion of otic progenitors in the cell pool of the sensory epithelium. Here, we show that an increase in the sequence-specific methylation of the otic Sox2 enhancers NOP1 and NOP2 is correlated with a reduced self-renewal potential in vivo and in vitro; additionally, the degree of methylation of NOP1 and NOP2 is correlated with the dedifferentiation potential of postmitotic supporting cells into otic stem cells. Thus, the stemness the organ of Corti is related to the epigenetic status of the otic Sox2 enhancers. These observations validate the continued exploration of treatment strategies for dedifferentiating or reprogramming of differentiated supporting cells into progenitors to regenerate the damaged organ of Corti.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0036066
View details for Web of Science ID 000305343400010
View details for PubMedID 22570694
Hair cells of the mammalian cochlea are specialized for the dynamic coding of sound stimuli. The transduction of sound waves into electrical signals depends upon mechanosensitive hair bundles that project from the cell's apical surface. Each stereocilium within a hair bundle is composed of uniformly polarized and tightly packed actin filaments. Several stereociliary proteins have been shown to be associated with hair bundle development and function and are known to cause deafness in mice and humans when mutated. The growth of the stereociliar actin core is dynamically regulated at the actin filament barbed ends in the stereociliary tip. We show that Eps8, a protein with actin binding, bundling, and barbed-end capping activities in other systems, is a novel component of the hair bundle. Eps8 is localized predominantly at the tip of the stereocilia and is essential for their normal elongation and function. Moreover, we have found that Eps8 knockout mice are profoundly deaf and that IHCs, but not OHCs, fail to mature into fully functional sensory receptors. We propose that Eps8 directly regulates stereocilia growth in hair cells and also plays a crucial role in the physiological maturation of mammalian cochlear IHCs. Together, our results indicate that Eps8 is critical in coordinating the development and functionality of mammalian auditory hair cells.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001048
View details for Web of Science ID 000289938900015
View details for PubMedID 21526224