Mechanical responses of the organ of corti to acoustic and electrical stimulation in vitro

Biophys J. 2005 Dec;89(6):4382-95. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.105.070474. Epub 2005 Sep 16.


The detection of sound by the cochlea involves a complex mechanical interplay among components of the cochlear partition. An in vitro preparation of the second turn of the jird's cochlea provides an opportunity to measure cochlear responses with subcellular resolution under controlled mechanical, ionic, and electrical conditions that simulate those encountered in vivo. Using photodiode micrometry, laser interferometry, and stroboscopic video microscopy, we have assessed the mechanical responses of the cochlear partition to acoustic and electrical stimuli near the preparation's characteristic frequency. Upon acoustic stimulation, the partition responds principally as a rigid plate pivoting around its insertion along the spiral lamina. The radial motion at the reticular lamina greatly surpasses that of the tectorial membrane, giving rise to shear that deflects the mechanosensitive hair bundles. Electrically evoked mechanical responses are qualitatively dissimilar from their acoustically evoked counterparts and suggest the recruitment of both hair-bundle- and soma-based electromechanical transduction processes. Finally, we observe significant changes in the stiffness of the cochlear partition upon tip-link destruction and tectorial-membrane removal, suggesting that these structures contribute considerably to the system's mechanical impedance and that hair-bundle-based forces can drive active motion of the cochlear partition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods*
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / methods
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Elasticity
  • Electric Stimulation / methods*
  • Gerbillinae
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Molecular Motor Proteins / physiology*
  • Organ of Corti / cytology*
  • Organ of Corti / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Molecular Motor Proteins