Document Type


Journal Title

Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology

Publication Date





The seven mammalian isotypes of beta tubulin are strikingly similar in amino acid sequence. The differences in isotypic sequence, although small, are nonetheless conserved in evolution, which suggests that they may confer distinct functional roles. If so, such roles should be reflected in the selective expression of isotypes by cell type, or even in the sorting of isotypes to within-cell pools. Hair cells of the vestibular sensory epithelia each possess a kinocilium, a microtubule-based organelle that could represent a distinct microtubule compartment, separate from the extensive microtubule network in the soma. The afferent neurons that innervate the vestibular sensory epithelia may also be functionally divided into dendritic, somatic, and axonal compartments, each with its own complement of microtubules. We have examined the distribution of beta tubulin isotypes in gerbil vestibular epithelia using isotype-specific antibodies to four isotypes and indirect immunofluorescence. We found that hair cells selectively express betaI and betaIV tubulin, while supporting cells express betaI, betaII, and betaIV tubulin. However, no sorting of isotypes between somatic and kinocilia compartments was found in hair cells. Vestibular ganglion cells display three isotypes in the soma, axon, and terminal dendrite compartments (betaI, betaII, and betaIII tubulin), but only betaIII tubulin was found in calyceal nerve endings. The implication of these findings is that beta tubulin isotypes are not sorted to within-cell compartments in hair cells but are sorted in some vestibular neurons.

MeSH Headings

Animals, Cell Compartmentation, Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect, Ganglia, Sensory, Gerbillinae, Hair Cells, Vestibular, Isomerism, Microtubules, Tubulin




J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2003 Sep; 4(3): 329–338.

Published online 2003 Feb 10.