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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Hyaluronan as a propellant for epithelial movement: the development of semicircular canals in the inner ear of Xenopus.

The membranous labyrinth of the inner ear, with its three semicircular canals, originates from a simple spheroidal otic vesicle. The process is easily observed in Xenopus. The vesicle develops three dorsal outpocketings; from the two opposite faces of each outpocketing pillars of tissue are protruded into the lumen; and these paired 'axial protrusions' eventually meet and fuse, to form a column of tissue spanning the lumen of the outpocketing like the hub of a wheel, with a tube of epithelium forming the semicircular canal around the periphery. Each axial protrusion consists of epithelium encasing a core of largely cell-free extracellular matrix that stains strongly with alcian blue. In sections, at least 60% of the stainable material is removed by treatment with Streptomyces hyaluronidase. When Streptomyces hyaluronidase is microinjected into the core of a protrusion in vivo, the protrusion collapses and the corresponding semicircular canal fails to form. Hyaluronan (hyaluronic acid) in the core of the protrusion therefore seems to be essential in driving the extension of the protrusion. Autoradiography with tritiated glucosamine indicates that the hyaluronan-rich matrix is synthesised by the epithelium covering the tip of the protrusion; the basal lamina here appears to be discontinuous. These findings indicate that the epithelium of the axial protrusion propels itself into the lumen of the otocyst by localised synthesis of hyaluronan. Hyaluronan may be used in a similar way in the development of other organs, such as the heart and the secondary palate.[1]


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