Early radial positional information in the cochlea is optimized by a precise linear BMP gradient and enhanced by SOX2. Sci Rep. 2023; 13(1):8567
JMG, Mice, Animals, Cochlea, Hair Cells, Auditory, Signal Transduction, Morphogenesis, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Cell Differentiation
This work has been supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) T32DC016853, NIDCD R21DC016376 to V.M., and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01HD073156 and National Science Foundation (NSF) 2120200 to D.M.U.
Positional information encoded in signaling molecules is essential for early patterning in the prosensory domain of the developing cochlea. The sensory epithelium, the organ of Corti, contains an exquisite repeating pattern of hair cells and supporting cells. This requires precision in the morphogen signals that set the initial radial compartment boundaries, but this has not been investigated. To measure gradient formation and morphogenetic precision in developing cochlea, we developed a quantitative image analysis procedure measuring SOX2 and pSMAD1/5/9 profiles in mouse embryos at embryonic day (E)12.5, E13.5, and E14.5. Intriguingly, we found that the pSMAD1/5/9 profile forms a linear gradient up to the medial ~ 75% of the PSD from the pSMAD1/5/9 peak in the lateral edge during E12.5 and E13.5. This is a surprising activity readout for a diffusive BMP4 ligand secreted from a tightly constrained lateral region since morphogens typically form exponential or power-law gradient shapes. This is meaningful for gradient interpretation because while linear profiles offer the theoretically highest information content and distributed precision for patterning, a linear morphogen gradient has not yet been observed. Furthermore, this is unique to the cochlear epithelium as the pSMAD1/5/9 gradient is exponential in the surrounding mesenchyme. In addition to the information-optimized linear profile, we found that while pSMAD1/5/9 is stable during this timeframe, an accompanying gradient of SOX2 shifts dynamically. Last, through joint decoding maps of pSMAD1/5/9 and SOX2, we see that there is a high-fidelity mapping between signaling activity and position in the regions that will become Kölliker's organ and the organ of Corti. Mapping is ambiguous in the prosensory domain precursory to the outer sulcus. Altogether, this research provides new insights into the precision of early morphogenetic patterning cues in the radial cochlea prosensory domain.