Forward and reverse transduction at the limit of sensitivity studied by correlating electrical and mechanical fluctuations in frog saccular hair cells

Hear Res. 1992 Jun;60(1):89-102. doi: 10.1016/0378-5955(92)90062-r.


The spontaneous fluctuations of the intracellular voltage and the position of the sensory hairbundle were measured concurrently using intracellular microelectrodes and an optical differential micro interferometer. Magnitude and frequency distribution of the hair bundles' spontaneous motion suggest that it consists mostly of Brownian motion. The electrical noise, however, exceeds the value expected for thermal Johnson noise by several orders of magnitude, and its frequency distribution reflects the transduction tuning properties of the hair cells. Frequently, a strong correlation was observed between the fluctuations of the hair bundle position and the intracellular electrical noise. From the properties of the correlation and from experiments involving mechanical stimulation we conclude that in most cases mechano-electrical transduction of the bundles' Brownian motion causes this correlation. Small signal transduction sensitivities ranged from 18 to 500 microV/nm. Bundle motion that was observed in response to current injection in more than half of the cells suggests the existence of a fast reverse (electro-mechanical) transduction mechanism to be common in these cells. The sensitivities could be as high as 600 pm of bundle deflection per millivolt of membrane potential change. In a significant minority (4 in 44) of cells, all showing excess electrical noise, we found 'non-causal' components of the electro-mechanical correlation, and in two of those cells narrow-band bundle motion in excess of their thermal motion at frequencies coincident with peaks in the intracellular noise was observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electrophysiology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Rana catesbeiana
  • Rana pipiens
  • Saccule and Utricle / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology