The stone-like otoliths from the ears of teleost fishes are involved in balance and hearing and consist of calcium carbonate crystallites embedded in a protein framework. We report that a previously unknown gene, starmaker, is required in zebrafish for otolith morphogenesis. Reduction of starmaker activity by injection of modified antisense oligonucleotides causes a change in the crystal lattice structure and thus a change in otolith morphology. The expression pattern of starmaker, along with the presence of the protein on the growing otolith, suggest that the expression levels of starmaker control the shape of the otoliths.
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