Dynamic gene expression by putative hair-cell progenitors during regeneration in the zebrafish lateral line
Hearing loss is most commonly caused by the destruction of mechanosensory hair cells in the ear. This condition is usually permanent: Despite the presence of putative hair-cell progenitors in the cochlea, hair cells are not naturally replenished in adult mammals. Unlike those of the mammalian ear, the progenitor cells of nonmammalian vertebrates can regenerate hair cells throughout life. The basis of this difference remains largely unexplored but may lie in molecular dissimilarities that affect how progenitors respond to hair-cell death. To approach this issue, we analyzed gene expression in hair-cell progenitors of the lateral-line system. We developed a transgenic line of zebrafish that expresses a red fluorescent protein in the presumptive hair-cell progenitors known as mantle cells. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting from the skins of transgenic larvae, followed by microarray-based expression analysis, revealed a constellation of transcripts that are specifically enriched in these cells. Gene expression analysis after hair-cell ablation uncovered a cohort of genes that are differentially regulated early in regeneration, suggesting possible roles in the response of progenitors to hair-cell death. These results provide a resource for studying hair-cell regeneration and the biology of sensory progenitor cells.