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Tissue manipulation experiments in amphibians more than 50 years ago showed that induction of the inner ear requires two signals: a mesodermal signal followed by a neural signal. However, the molecules mediating this process have remained elusive. We present evidence for mesodermal initiation of otic development in higher vertebrates and show that the mesoderm can direct terminal differentiation of the inner ear in rostral ectoderm. Furthermore, we demonstrate the synergistic interactions of the extracellular polypeptide ligands FGF-19 and Wnt-8c as mediators of mesodermal and neural signals, respectively, initiating inner ear development.
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