Epithelial dynamics shed light on the mechanisms underlying ear canal defects

Juan M. Fons, Mona Mozaffari, Dean Malik, Abigail R. Marshall, Steve Connor, Nicholas D.E. Greene, Abigail S. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Defects in ear canal development can cause severe hearing loss as sound waves fail to reach the middle ear. Here, we reveal new mechanisms that control human canal development and highlight for the first time the complex system of canal closure and reopening. These processes can be perturbed in mutant mice and in explant culture, mimicking the defects associated with canal atresia. The more superficial part of the canal forms from an open primary canal that closes and then reopens. In contrast, the deeper part of the canal forms from an extending solid meatal plate that opens later. Closure and fusion of the primary canal was linked to loss of periderm, with failure in periderm formation in Grhl3 mutant mice associated with premature closure of the canal. Conversely, inhibition of cell death in the periderm resulted in an arrest of closure. Once closed, re-opening of the canal occurred in a wave, triggered by terminal differentiation of the epithelium. Understanding these complex processes involved in canal development sheds light on the underlying causes of canal atresia.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment (Cambridge, England)
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2020


  • Canal atresia
  • External ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Periderm


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