A Bundle of Mechanisms: Inner-Ear Hair-Cell Mechanotransduction

Trends Neurosci. 2019 Mar;42(3):221-236. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2018.12.006. Epub 2019 Jan 17.


In the inner ear, the deflection of hair bundles, the sensory organelles of hair cells, activates mechanically-gated channels (MGCs). Hair bundles monitor orientation of the head, its angular and linear acceleration, and detect sound. Force applied to MGCs is shaped by intrinsic hair-bundle properties, by the mechanical load on the bundle, and by the filter imparted by the environment of the hair bundle. Channel gating and adaptation, the ability of the bundle to reset its operating point, contribute to hair-bundle mechanics. Recent data from mammalian hair cells challenge longstanding hypotheses regarding adaptation mechanisms and hair-bundle coherence. Variations between hair bundles from different organs in hair-bundle mechanics, mechanical load, channel gating, and adaptation may allow a hair bundle to selectively respond to specific sensory stimuli.

Keywords: adaptation; auditory; hair bundle; mechanotransduction; vestibular.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Hair / physiology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology*
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Microscopy / methods


  • Calcium