Tonotopic gradient in the developmental acquisition of sensory transduction in outer hair cells of the mouse cochlea

J Neurophysiol. 2009 Jun;101(6):2961-73. doi: 10.1152/jn.00136.2009. Epub 2009 Apr 1.


Inner ear hair cells are exquisite mechanosensors that transduce nanometer scale deflections of their sensory hair bundles into electrical signals. Several essential elements must be precisely assembled during development to confer the unique structure and function of the mechanotransduction apparatus. Here we investigated the functional development of the transduction complex in outer hair cells along the length of mouse cochlea acutely excised between embryonic day 17 (E17) and postnatal day 8 (P8). We charted development of the stereociliary bundle using scanning electron microscopy; FM1-43 uptake, which permeates hair cell transduction channels, mechanotransduction currents evoked by rapid hair bundle deflections, and mRNA expression of possible components of the transduction complex. We demonstrated that uptake of FM1-43 first occurred in the basal portion of the cochlea at P0 and progressed toward the apex over the subsequent week. Electrophysiological recordings obtained from 234 outer hair cells between E17 and P8 from four cochlear regions revealed a correlation between the pattern of FM1-43 uptake and the acquisition of mechanotransduction. We found a spatiotemporal gradient in the properties of transduction including onset, amplitude, operating range, time course, and extent of adaptation. We used quantitative RT-PCR to examine relative mRNA expression of several hair cell myosins and candidate tip-link molecules. We found spatiotemporal expression patterns for mRNA that encodes cadherin 23, protocadherin 15, myosins 3a, 7a, 15a, and PMCA2 that preceded the acquisition of transduction. The spatiotemporal expression patterns of myosin 1c and PMCA2 mRNA were correlated with developmental changes in several properties of mechanotransduction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cochlea* / cytology
  • Cochlea* / embryology
  • Cochlea* / growth & development
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Outer / physiology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Outer / ultrastructure
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning / methods
  • Myosins / classification
  • Myosins / genetics
  • Myosins / metabolism
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Physical Stimulation / methods
  • Plasma Membrane Calcium-Transporting ATPases / genetics
  • Plasma Membrane Calcium-Transporting ATPases / metabolism
  • Pyridinium Compounds / metabolism
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • FM1 43
  • Pyridinium Compounds
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Plasma Membrane Calcium-Transporting ATPases
  • Myosins
  • Atp2b2 protein, mouse