Actin filaments, stereocilia, and hair cells of the bird cochlea. IV. How the actin filaments become organized in developing stereocilia and in the cuticular plate

Dev Biol. 1986 Jul;116(1):119-29. doi: 10.1016/0012-1606(86)90048-5.


In 8-day-old embryos stereocilia can be identified on the hair cells of the chick cochlea; within each is a small population of actin filaments which extend from the tip of the stereocilium to the apical cytoplasm of the cell. These filaments are not ordered in a regular way, however, and tend to be found near the lateral margins of the stereocilia with large spaces between adjacent filaments. By 9 days the spaces between adjacent filaments are reduced and there are regions where the crossover points of adjacent actin helices are in register even though in cross section the actin filaments do not lie on a regular lattice. By 10-11 days the actin filaments become progressively more crossbridged together and we can recognize in longitudinal section horizontal stripes caused by the periodicity of the crossbridges. In transverse section the filaments begin to lie on a hexagonal lattice. Each stereocilium, however, contains less than 100 actin filaments. Evidence is presented that once crossbridging is maximal and the filaments hexagonally packed (Days 11-12), the stereocilia increase in width by the orderly addition of actin filaments to the lateral margins of the existing filament bundle so that by Day 16 we find up to 400 filaments all packed on a hexagonal lattice. Thus there are two stages in bundle formation. In the first a small number of filaments condense into a hexagonally packed, crosslinked bundle. In the second, the bundle increases in diameter by addition of filaments to the periphery of the bundle in a process akin to crystal growth. From observations on the elongation of filaments in the rootlets and stereocilia, we conclude that rootlets grow by addition of subunits at the nonpreferred end while stereocilia elongate by addition to the preferred end. What makes this interesting is that these two modes of addition occur at different developmental times.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chickens
  • Cilia / ultrastructure*
  • Cochlea / cytology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Time Factors


  • Actins