First appearance and development of motile properties in outer hair cells isolated from guinea-pig cochlea

Hear Res. 1991 Dec;57(1):129-41. doi: 10.1016/0378-5955(91)90082-k.


Cochleae from fetal guinea-pigs (37 to 64 gestation days, gd) were used to correlate the appearance of motile properties of isolated outer hair cells (OHCs) with the development of specific morphological features. Both the 'fast' electrically-driven and the 'slow' calcium-induced motilities appeared first in OHCs from basal turn of 52 gd fetuses. At 56 gd, most of basal and some apical OHCs responded positively to both types of stimulation. All tested cells were positive at 64 gd. It is noteworthy that this period closely corresponds to the onset and maturation of the gross cochlear potentials. Some structural changes in the organ of Corti may be correlated with the development of OHC motile properties: the acquisition of an adult-like cylindrical shape by the OHC, its lateral detachment from neighboring Deiters cells, and its surrounding by fluid spaces. At the ultrastructural level, the formation of a first layer of laminated cisternae regularly aligned along the OHC plasma membrane from the cuticular plate down to the nuclear level, temporally coincided with the onset of in vitro motility (52 gd). The following days, pillars and a sub-membrane lattice were clearly noticed between the outermost cisternal membrane and the plasma membrane. The results support the ideas that: motile properties observed in vitro reflect the in vivo active mechanisms, and that one single layer of laminated cisternae and its associated sub-plasma membrane material may be needed for OHC motility.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cochlea / embryology*
  • Cochlea / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Fetus / anatomy & histology
  • Fetus / physiology
  • Gestational Age
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / drug effects
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / embryology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Ionomycin / pharmacology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Movement


  • Ionomycin
  • Calcium