ErbB2 protein is essential for the development of Schwann cells and for the normal fiber growth and myelin formation of peripheral nerves. We have investigated the fate of the otocyst-derived inner ear sensory neurons in the absence of ErbB2 using ErbB2 null mutants. Afferent innervation of the ear sensory epithelia shows numerous fibers overshooting the organ of Corti, followed by a reduction of those fibers in near term embryos. This suggests that mature Schwann cells do not play a role in targeting or maintaining the inner ear innervation. Comparable to the overshooting of nerve fibers, sensory neurons migrate beyond their normal locations into unusual positions in the modiolus. They may miss a stop signal provided by the Schwann cells that are absent as revealed with detailed histology. Reduction of overshooting afferents may be enhanced by a reduction of the neurotrophin Ntf3 transcript to about 25% of wild type. Ntf3 transcript reductions are comparable to an adult model that uses a dominant negative form of ErbB4 expressed in the supporting cells and Schwann cells of the organ of Corti. ErbB2 null mice retain afferents to inner hair cells possibly because of the prominent expression of the neurotrophin Bdnf in developing hair cells. Despite the normal presence of Bdnf transcript, afferent fibers are disoriented near the organ of Corti. Efferent fibers do not form an intraganglionic spiral bundle in the absence of spiral ganglia and appear reduced and disorganized. This suggests that either ErbB2 mediated alterations in sensory neurons or the absence of Schwann cells affects efferent fiber growth to the organ of Corti.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Clinical Neurology
- Developmental Biology