The development of lateral line placodes: taking a broader view.


The lateral line system of anamniote vertebrates enables the detection of local water movement and weak bioelectric fields. Ancestrally, it comprises neuromasts - small sense organs containing mechanosensory hair cells - distributed in characteristic lines over the head and trunk, flanked on the head by fields of electroreceptive ampullary organs, innervated by afferent neurons projecting respectively to the medial and dorsal octavolateral nuclei in the hindbrain. Given the independent loss of the electrosensory system in multiple lineages, the development and evolution of the mechanosensory and electrosensory components of the lateral line must be dissociable. Nevertheless, the entire system arises from a series of cranial lateral line placodes, which exhibit two modes of sensory organ formation: elongation to form sensory ridges that fragment (with neuromasts differentiating in the center of the ridge, and ampullary organs on the flanks), or migration as collectives of cells, depositing sense organs in their wake. Intensive study of the migrating posterior lateral line placode in zebrafish has yielded a wealth of information concerning the molecular control of migration and neuromast formation in this migrating placode, in this cypriniform teleost species. However, our mechanistic understanding of neuromast and ampullary organ formation by elongating lateral line placodes, and even of other zebrafish lateral line placodes, is sparse or non-existent. Here, we attempt to highlight the diversity of lateral line development and the limits of the current research focus on the zebrafish posterior lateral line placode. We hope this will stimulate a broader approach to this fascinating sensory system.