A biophysical model of an inner hair cell

J Acoust Soc Am. 2004 Jul;116(1):426-41. doi: 10.1121/1.1755237.


Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings on isolated inner hair cells (IHCs) of guinea pig cochleae have revealed the presence of voltage-gated potassium channels. A biophysical model of an IHC is presented that indicates activation of slow voltage-gated potassium channels may lead to receptor potentials whose dc component decreases during the stimulus, and membrane potential hyperpolarizes when the stimulus is turned off. Both the decreasing dc and the hyperpolarization are, respectively, consistent with rapid adaptation and suppression of spontaneous rate in the auditory nerve. Receptor potentials recorded in vivo do not show these features, and when a nonspecific leak is included in the model to simulate microelectrode impalement, the model's receptor potentials become similar to those in vivo. The nonspecific leak creates an electrical shunt that masks slow channel activity and allows the cell to depolarize. Both the decreasing dc and the hyperpolarization are sensitive to the resting potential. Because the reported resting potentials in vivo and in vitro differ greatly, the model is used to investigate homeostatic mechanisms responsible for the resting potential. It is found that the voltage-gated potassium channels have the greatest influence on the resting potential, but that the standing transducer current may be sufficient to eliminate the decreasing dc and after-stimulus hyperpolarization.

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

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Basilar Membrane / physiology
  • Chlorides / metabolism
  • Cochlear Nerve / physiology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Microelectrodes
  • Models, Biological
  • Organ of Corti / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / metabolism
  • Transducers


  • Chlorides
  • Potassium Channels
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase