One of the most striking aspects of the sensory epithelium of the mammalian cochlea, the organ of Corti (OC), is the presence of precise boundaries between sensory and nonsensory cells at its medial and lateral edges. A particular example of this precision is the single row of inner hair cells (IHCs) and associated supporting cells along the medial (neural) boundary. Despite the regularity of this boundary, the developmental processes and genetic factors that contribute to its specification are poorly understood. In this study we demonstrate that Leucine Rich Repeat Neuronal 1 (Lrrn1), which codes for a single-pass, transmembrane protein, is expressed before the development of the mouse organ of Corti in the row of cells that will form its medial border. Deletion of Lrrn1 in mice of mixed sex leads to disruptions in boundary formation that manifest as ectopic inner hair cells and supporting cells. Genetic and pharmacological manipulations demonstrate that Lrrn1 interacts with the Notch signaling pathway and strongly suggest that Lrrn1 normally acts to enhance Notch signaling across the medial boundary. This interaction is required to promote formation of the row of inner hair cells and suppress the conversion of adjacent nonsensory cells into hair cells and supporting cells. These results identify Lrrn1 as an important regulator of boundary formation and cellular patterning during development of the organ of Corti.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Patterning of the developing mammalian cochlea into distinct sensory and nonsensory regions and the specification of multiple different cell fates within those regions are critical for proper auditory function. Here, we report that the transmembrane protein Leucine Rich Repeat Neuronal 1 (LRRN1) is expressed along the sharp medial boundary between the single row of mechanosensory inner hair cells (IHCs) and adjacent nonsensory cells. Formation of this boundary is mediated in part by Notch signaling, and loss of Lrrn1 leads to disruptions in boundary formation similar to those caused by a reduction in Notch activity, suggesting that LRRN1 likely acts to enhance Notch signaling. Greater understanding of sensory/nonsensory cell fate decisions in the cochlea will help inform the development of regenerative strategies aimed at restoring auditory function.

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This post is Copyright: Maunsell, H. R., Ellis, K., Kelley, M. W., Driver, E. C. | July 20, 2023
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