Neurosensory epithelia in the inner ear are the crucial structures for hearing and balance functions. Therefore, it is important to understand the cellular and molecular features of the epithelia, which are mainly composed of two types of cells: hair cells (HCs) and supporting cells (SCs). Here we choose to study the inner ear sensory epithelia in adult zebrafish not only because the epithelial structures are highly conserved in all vertebrates studied, but also because the adult zebrafish is able to regenerate HCs, an ability that mammals lose shortly after birth. We use the inner ear of adult zebrafish as a model system to study the mechanisms of inner ear HC regeneration in adult vertebrates that could be helpful for clinical therapy of hearing/balance deficits in human as a result of HC loss.
Here we demonstrate how to do gross and fine dissections of inner ear sensory epithelia in adult zebrafish. The gross dissection removes the tissues surrounding the inner ear and is helpful for preparing tissue sections, which allows us to examine the detailed structure of the sensory epithelia. The fine dissection cleans up the non-sensory-epithelial tissues of each individual epithelium and enables us to examine the heterogeneity of the whole epithelium easily in whole-mount epithelial samples.