Int. J. Dev. Biol. 51: 571 - 583 (2007)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.072388mk
© UBC Press

Cellular commitment and differentiation in the organ of Corti

Matthew W. Kelley*

Section on Developmental Neuroscience, National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

ABSTRACT The organ of Corti, the sensory epithelium of the mammalian cochlea, develops from a subset of cells located along the dorsal side (referred to as the floor) of the cochlear duct. Over the course of embryonic development, cells within the developing organ of Corti become committed to develop as each of the unique cell types within the organ, including inner and outer hair cells, and at least four different types of supporting cells. Moreover, these different cell types are subsequently arranged into a highly rigorous cellular mosaic that includes the formation of ordered rows of both hair cells and supporting cells. The events that regulate both the location of the organ of Corti within the cochlear duct, the specification of each cell type and cellular patterning remain poorly understood. However, recent results have significantly improved our understanding of the molecular, genetic and cellular factors that mediate some of the decisions required for the development of this structure. In this review I will present an overview of cochlear development and then discuss some of the most recent and enlightening results regarding the molecular mechanism underlying the formation of this remarkable structure.

Keywords:

hair cell, ear, otocyst, atoh1, notch

*Corresponding author e-mail: kelleymt@nidcd.nih.gov