Conserved and divergent development of brainstem vestibular and auditory nuclei

Research paper by Marcela Lipovsek, Richard JT Wingate

Indexed on: 21 Dec '18Published on: 19 Dec '18Published in: eLife


Vestibular function was established early in vertebrates and has remained, for the most part, unchanged. In contrast, each group of tetrapods underwent independent evolutionary processes to solve the problem of hearing on land, resulting in a remarkable mixture of conserved, divergent and convergent features that define extant auditory systems. The vestibuloacoustic nuclei of the hindbrain develop from a highly conserved ground plan and provide an ideal framework on which to address the participation of developmental processes to the evolution of neuronal circuits. We employed an electroporation strategy to unravel the contribution of two dorsoventral and four axial lineages to the development of the chick hindbrain vestibular and auditory nuclei. We compare the chick developmental map with recently stablished genetic fate-maps of the developing mouse hindbrain. Overall, we find considerable conservation of developmental origin for the vestibular nuclei. In contrast, a comparative analysis of the developmental origin of hindbrain auditory structures echoes the complex evolutionary history of the auditory system. In particular, we find that the developmental origin of the chick auditory interaural time difference circuit supports its emergence from an ancient vestibular network, unrelated to the analogous mammalian counterpart.