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Lamellar Junctions In The Endolymphatic Sac Act As A Relief Valve To Regulate Inner Ear Pressure

By Ian A. Swinburne, Kishore R Mosaliganti, Srigokul Upadhyayula, Tsung-Li Liu, David Grant Colburn Hildebrand, Tony Tsai, Anzhi Chen, Ebaa Al-Obeidi, Anna Fass, Samir Malhotra, Florian Engert, Jeff W Lichtman, Tom Kirchhausen, Eric Betzig, Sean G Megason

Posted 30 May 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/143826 (published DOI: 10.7554/eLife.37131)

The inner ear is a fluid-filled closed-epithelial structure whose normal function requires maintenance of an internal hydrostatic pressure and fluid composition by unknown mechanisms. The endolymphatic sac (ES) is a dead-end epithelial tube connected to the inner ear. ES defects can cause distended ear tissue, a pathology often seen in hearing and balance disorders. Using live imaging of zebrafish larvae, we reveal that the ES undergoes cycles of slow pressure-driven inflation followed by rapid deflation every 1-3 hours. Using serial-section electron microscopy and adaptive optics lattice light-sheet microscopy, we find a pressure relief valve in the ES comprised of thin overlapping basal lamellae that dynamically extend over neighboring cells before rupturing under pressure leading to ES collapse. The unexpected discovery of a physical relief valve in the ear emphasizes the need for further study into how organs control fluid pressure, volume, flow, and ion homeostasis in development and disease.

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