Here we present spatio-temporal localization of Kremen1, a transmembrane receptor, in the mammalian cochlea, and investigate its role in the formation of sensory organs in mammal and fish model organisms. We show that Kremen1 is expressed in prosensory cells during cochlear development and in supporting cells of the adult mouse cochlea. Based on this expression pattern, we investigated whether Kremen1 functions to modulate cell fate decisions in the prosensory domain of the developing cochlea. We used gain and loss-of-function experiments to show that Kremen1 is sufficient to bias cells towards supporting cell fate, and is implicated in suppression of hair cell formation. In addition to our findings in the mouse cochlea, we examined the effects of over expression and loss of Kremen1 in the zebrafish lateral line. In agreement with our mouse data, we show that over expression of Kremen1 has a negative effect on the number of mechanosensory cells that form in the zebrafish neuromasts, and that fish lacking Kremen1 protein develop more hair cells per neuromast compared to wild type fish. Collectively, these data support an inhibitory role for Kremen1 in hair cell fate specification.
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