The marginal cells of the stria vascularis possess distinctive morphological characteristics associated with their role in endolymph production. Interestingly, when stria-derived epithelial cells are grown in association with the underlying mesenchyme, the final differentiation of these cell types does not occur. Beyond the rudimentary polarity that is established, similar to that shown in epithelial monolayers, cells in culture bear only a slight resemblance to their marginal cell counterparts in vivo. The ultrastructural features that typify these epithelia, extensive cytoplasmic invaginations, with an abundance of mitochondria, and darkly stained cytoplasm, are not evident under standard culture conditions. In order to determine whether fluid transport, a key function of the stria vascularis, has an effect on the ultrastructural morphology, we examined de novo stria vascularis tissues that formed a fluid: filled cyst in vitro. We found that only cells associated with the luminal structure demonstrated dark cytoplasmic staining and amplification of the basolateral membrane of the marginal cells. Additionally, other epithelial features, such as mitochondria-rich and microvilli-rich cells, were observed in cyst-forming tissues. The enhancement of the marginal cell specializations was not as robust as that observed in vivo; however, they were clearly more extensive when compared to cells in the same culture that were not associated with a fluid-filled lumen. Thus it appears that fluid transport may be necessary to maximize differentiation of stria vascularis tissues in vitro.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sensory Systems
- Inner ear
- Marginal cell