Inner-ear hair cell differentiation requires Atoh1 function, while Eya1, Six1, and Sox2 are coexpressed in sensory progenitors and mutations in these genes cause sensorineural hearing loss. However, how these genes are linked functionally and the transcriptional networks controlling hair cell induction remain unclear. Here, we show (1) that Eya1/Six1 are necessary for hair cell development, and their coexpression in mouse cochlear explants is sufficient to induce hair cell fate in the nonsensory epithelium expressing low-level Sox2 by activating not only Atoh1-dependent but also Atoh1-independent pathways and (2) that both pathways induce Pou4f3 to promote hair cell differentiation. Sox2 cooperates with Eya1/Six1 to synergistically activate Atoh1 transcription via direct binding to the conserved Sox- and Six-binding sites in Atoh1 enhancers, and these proteins physically interact. Our findings demonstrate that direct and cooperative interactions between the Sox2, Six1, and Eya1 proteins coordinate Atoh1 expression to specify hair cell fate. Atoh1 initiates induction of auditory hair cells in the developing inner ear. Ahmed etal. define transcriptional complexes containing Eya1/Six1 and Sox2 transcription factors as crucial regulators of Atoh1 and Atoh1-independent hair cell formation. Misexpression of these transcription factors induces hair cells de novo.
|Number of pages||14|
|State||Published - 14 Feb 2012|