Morphogenesis of the semicircular canal ducts of the zebrafish inner ear

Whitfield TT

Bateson Centre and Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK.

The inner ear, the organ of hearing and balance, has a spectacular and complex epithelial morphology. The interlinked chambers and ducts that make up the ear include the three orthogonally-oriented semicircular canals, which function to sense angular acceleration (turning movements) of the head. During embryogenesis, the otic epithelium undergoes fusion and fission events that drive changes in tissue topology, defining the semicircular canal ducts. We are using high-resolution confocal and light-sheet fluorescence microscopy to image and analyse semicircular canal morphogenesis in the live zebrafish embryo. I will present a selection of our imaging studies to illustrate the dynamic cell and tissue movements that accompany semicircular canal formation, both in wild-type embryos, and in mutant lines in which different aspects of semicircular canal development are disrupted. Together, these are giving insight into the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying semicircular canal formation in the vertebrate embryo.