Developmental acquisition of a rapid calcium-regulated vesicle supply allows sustained high rates of exocytosis in auditory hair cells

PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25714. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025714. Epub 2011 Oct 6.


Auditory hair cells (HCs) have the remarkable property to indefinitely sustain high rates of synaptic vesicle release during ongoing sound stimulation. The mechanisms of vesicle supply that allow such indefatigable exocytosis at the ribbon active zone remain largely unknown. To address this issue, we characterized the kinetics of vesicle recruitment and release in developing chick auditory HCs. Experiments were done using the intact chick basilar papilla from E10 (embryonic day 10) to P2 (two days post-hatch) by monitoring changes in membrane capacitance and Ca(2+) currents during various voltage stimulations. Compared to immature pre-hearing HCs (E10-E12), mature post-hearing HCs (E18-P2) can steadily mobilize a larger readily releasable pool (RRP) of vesicles with faster kinetics and higher Ca(2+) efficiency. As assessed by varying the inter-pulse interval of a 100 ms paired-pulse depolarization protocol, the kinetics of RRP replenishment were found much faster in mature HCs. Unlike mature HCs, exocytosis in immature HCs showed large depression during repetitive stimulations. Remarkably, when the intracellular concentration of EGTA was raised from 0.5 to 2 mM, the paired-pulse depression level remained unchanged in immature HCs but was drastically increased in mature HCs, indicating that the Ca(2+) sensitivity of the vesicle replenishment process increases during maturation. Concomitantly, the immunoreactivity of the calcium sensor otoferlin and the number of ribbons at the HC plasma membrane largely increased, reaching a maximum level at E18-P2. Our results suggest that the efficient Ca(2+)-dependent vesicle release and supply in mature HCs essentially rely on the concomitant engagement of synaptic ribbons and otoferlin at the plasma membrane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Chickens
  • Exocytosis*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / cytology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Calcium