Methods to study the development, anatomy, and function of the zebrafish inner ear across the life course

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Whitfield, T.T. ; Baxendale, S. (2016)
  • Publisher: Elsevier
  • Subject:
    mesheuropmc: otorhinolaryngologic diseases | sense organs

The inner ear is a remarkably intricate structure able to detect sound, motion, and gravity. During development of the zebrafish embryo, the ear undergoes dynamic morphogenesis from a simple epithelial vesicle into a complex labyrinth, consisting of three semicircular canals and three otolithic sensory organs, each with an array of differentiated cell types. This microcosm of biology has led to advances in understanding molecular and cellular changes in epithelial patterning and morphogenesis, through to mechanisms of mechanosensory transduction and the origins of reflexive behavior. In this chapter, we describe different methods to study the zebrafish ear, including high-speed imaging of otic cilia, confocal microscopy, and light-sheet fluorescent microscopy. Many dyes, antibodies, and transgenic lines for labeling the ear are available, and we provide a comprehensive review of these resources. The developing ear is amenable to genetic, chemical, and physical manipulations, including injection and transplantation. Chemical modulation of developmental signaling pathways has paved the way for zebrafish to be widely used in drug discovery. We describe two chemical screens with relevance to the ear: a fluorescent-based screen for compounds that protect against ototoxicity, and an in situ–based screen for modulators of a signaling pathway involved in semicircular canal development. We also describe methods for dissection and imaging of the adult otic epithelia. We review both manual and automated methods to test the function of the inner ear and lateral line, defects in which can lead to altered locomotor behavior. Finally, we review a collection of zebrafish models that are generating new insights into human deafness and vestibular disorders.\ud \ud
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