Cytoskeletal integration in a highly ordered sensory epithelium in the organ of Corti: response to loss of cell partners in the Bronx waltzer mouse

John Barry Tucker, JB Mackie, TJ Bussoli, KP Steel

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12 Citations (Scopus)


This report is concerned with control of cell shaping, positioning, and cytoskeletal integration in a highly ordered cochlear neuroepithelium. It is largely based on investigations of events that occur during abnormal morphogenesis of the organ of Corti in the Bronx waltzer (bv/bv) mutant mouse. The organ's sensory hair cells and adjacent supporting cells ordinarily construct a spatially elaborate and supracellularly integrated cytoskeletal framework. Large microtubule bundles are connected to cytoskeletal components in neighbouring cells by actin-containing meshworks that link them to substantial arrays of adherens junctions. In bv/bv mice, degeneration and loss of most inner hair cells and outer pillar cells occurs during organ development. These cells flank each side of a row of inner pillar cells that respond by upregulating assembly of their actin-containing meshworks. This only occurs in surface regions where they no longer contact cell types involved in construction of the cytoskeletal framework. The meshworks are larger and exhibit a more extensive sub-surface deployment than is normally the case. Hence, assembly of intercellular cytoskeletal connecting components can proceed without contact with appropriate cell neighbours but termination of assembly is apparently subject to a negative feedback control triggered by successful completion of intercellular connection with the correct cell neighbours. In addition, inner pillar cells compensate for loss of cell neighbours by interdigitating and overlapping each other more extensively than is usually the case to increase opportunities for generating adherens junctions. Certain adherens junctions in the organs of +/+ and bv/bv mice exhibit features that distinguish them from all previously described cell junctions. The dense plaques on their cytoplasmic faces are composed of aligned ridges. We suggest that they are called ribbed adherens junctions. Perturbations of cell shaping and positioning indicate that loss of inner hair cells is the primary consequence of the bv mutation. Most of the other abnormalities can be understood in terms of a secondary sequence of morphogenetic aberrations (precipitated by loss of inner hair cells). These aberrations provide new information about the ways in which supporting cells help to control hair cell positioning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1034
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Neurocytology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999


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