Cross-links between stereocilia in the guinea pig organ of Corti, and their possible relation to sensory transduction

Hear Res. 1984 Aug;15(2):103-12. doi: 10.1016/0378-5955(84)90041-8.


Hair cells of the guinea pig cochlea were preserved for electron microscopic examination by fixing in glutaraldehyde without the use of osmium. An extensive array of cross-links was seen between the stereocilia, by both scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The stereocilia were linked together laterally, particularly near their apical ends, by links running approximately at right angles to the long axis of the stereocilia. One set joined stereocilia of the same row, and another set joined stereocilia of the different rows, holding the tips of the shorter stereocilia in towards the longer stereocilia of the next row. In addition, the tip of each shorter stereocilium on the hair cell gave rise to a single, upwards-pointing link, which ran up to join the taller stereocilium of the next row. We suggest that distortion of this link would give rise to sensory transduction. On this basis, we are able to explain the V shape of the rows of stereocilia on outer hair cells. Within the rows, the three-dimensional arrangement of the stereocilia was different from that seen conventionally. Rather than standing parallel, the stereocilia of the different rows tapered in together at the tips, presumably held by the laterally-running cross-links. In addition, a membrane roughness, particularly pronounced in the region of the stereocilium which gives rise to the cross-links, was seen. However, the lateral and basal surface membranes of the hair cell, and the membranes of the internal organelles, had a more conventional appearance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Glutaral
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / ultrastructure*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / ultrastructure
  • Neural Inhibition
  • Osmium


  • Osmium
  • Glutaral