PloS one

Expression and Misexpression of the miR-183 Family in the Developing Hearing Organ of the Chicken.

PMID 26176784


The miR-183 family consists of 3 related microRNAs (miR-183, miR-96, miR-182) that are required to complete maturation of primary sensory cells in the mammalian inner ear. Because the level of these microRNAs is not uniform across hair cell subtypes in the murine cochlea, the question arises as to whether hair cell phenotypes are influenced by microRNA expression levels. To address this, we used the chicken embryo to study expression and misexpression of this gene family. By in situ hybridization, expression of all 3 microRNAs is robust in immature hair cells of both auditory and vestibular organs and is present in the statoacoustic ganglion. The auditory organ, called the basilar papilla, shows a weak radial gradient (highest on the neural side) in prosensory cells near the base on embryonic day 7. About nine days later, the basilar papilla also displays a longitudinal gradient (highest in apical hair cells) for the 3 microRNAs. Tol2-mediated gene delivery was used to ask whether cell phenotypes are malleable when the prosensory epithelium was forced to overexpress the miR-183 family. The expression plasmid included EGFP as a reporter located upstream of an intron carrying the microRNA genes. The vectors were electroporated into the otic cup/vesicle, resulting in strong co-expression of EGFP and the miR-183 family that persisted for at least 2 weeks. This manipulation did not generate ectopic hair cells in non-sensory territories of the cochlear duct, although within the basilar papilla, hair cells were over-represented relative to supporting cells. There was no evidence for a change in hair cell phenotypes, such as short-to-tall, or basal-to-apical hair cell features. Therefore, while increasing expression of the miR-183 family was sufficient to influence cell lineage decisions, it did not redirect the differentiation of hair cells towards alternative radial or longitudinal phenotypes.