Organization of microtubules in cochlear hair cells

J Electron Microsc Tech. 1990 Jul;15(3):261-79. doi: 10.1002/jemt.1060150306.


The organization of microtubules in hair cells of the guinea-pig cochlea has been investigated using transmission electron microscopy and correlated with the location of tubulin-associated immunofluorescence in surface preparations of the organ of Corti. Results from both techniques reveal consistent distributions of microtubules in inner and outer hair cells. In the inner hair cells, microtubules are most concentrated in the apex. Reconstruction from serial sections shows three main groups: firstly, in channels through the cuticular plate and in a discontinuous belt around its upper perimeter; secondly, forming a ring inside a rim extending down from the lower perimeter of the plate; and thirdly, in a meshwork underlying the main body of the plate. In the cell body, microtubules line the inner face of the subsurface cistern and extend longitudinally through a tubulo-vesicular track between the apex and base. In outer hair cells, the pattern of microtubules associated with the cuticular plate is similar, although there are fewer present than in inner hair cells. In outer hair cells from the apex of the cochlea, microtubules occur around an infracuticular protrusion of cuticular plate material. In the cell body, many more microtubules occur in the region below the nucleus compared with inner hair cells. The possible functions of microtubules in hair cells are discussed by comparison with those found in other systems. These include morphogenesis and maintenance of cell shape; intracellular transport, e.g., of neurotransmitter vesicles; providing a possible substrate for motility; mechanical support of structures associated with sensory transduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / analysis
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / ultrastructure*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / ultrastructure
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Microtubules / analysis
  • Microtubules / physiology
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure*
  • Organ of Corti / analysis
  • Organ of Corti / ultrastructure
  • Tubulin / analysis


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Tubulin