Early development of hearing in zebrafish

Zhongmin Lu, Alexandra A. Desmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The zebrafish (Danio rerio) has become a valuable vertebrate model for human hearing and balance disorders because it combines powerful genetics, excellent embryology, and exceptional in vivo visualization in one organism. In this study, we investigated auditory function of zebrafish at early developmental stages using the microphonic potential method. This is the first study to report ontogeny of response of hair cells in any fish during the first week post fertilization. The right ear of each zebrafish embedded in agarose was linearly stimulated with a glass probe that was driven by a calibrated piezoelectric actuator. Using beveled micropipettes filled with standard fish saline, extracellular microphonic potentials were recorded from hair cells in the inner ear of zebrafish embryos or larvae in response to 20, 50, 100, and 200-Hz stimulation. Saccular hair cells expressing green fluorescent protein of the transgenic zebrafish from 2 to 7 days post fertilization (dpf) were visualized and quantified using confocal microscopy. The otic vesicles' areas, otoliths' areas, and saccular hair cell count and density increased linearly with age and standard body length. Microphonic responses increased monotonically with stimulus intensity, stimulus frequency, and age of zebrafish. Microphonic threshold at 200 Hz gradually decreased with zebrafish age. The increases in microphonic response and sensitivity correlate with the increases in number and density of hair cells in the saccule. These results enhance our knowledge of early development of auditory function in zebrafish and provide the control data that can be used to evaluate hearing of young zebrafish morphants or mutants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-521
Number of pages13
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • hair cell
  • inner ear
  • otic vesicle
  • otolith organ
  • saccule
  • utricle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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