Postnatal development of the hamster cochlea. II. Growth and differentiation of stereocilia bundles

J Comp Neurol. 1994 Dec 8;350(2):187-98. doi: 10.1002/cne.903500204.


The postnatal development of stereocilia was studied in the Syrian golden hamster. The purpose was to describe the morphological changes underlying the differentiation of stereocilia bundles and to define the time course of their growth in different regions of the cochlea. Differentiation of the hair bundle occurred by progressive changes in stereocilia number, dimensions, and spatial relationships. The overall transformation of the bundle is interpreted as a four-stage process involving the initial production of stereocilia (stage I), differentiation into tall and short populations (stage II), formation of distinct ranks (stage III), and resorption of excess stereocilia (stage IV). The orientation and arrangement of stereocilia during stage II began to occur before the tectorial membrane grew over the hair cell field. Growth in the dimensions of stereocilia occurred continuously throughout these four stages with increases in length and width occurring simultaneously. The time frame of the growth process depended both on location along the organ of Corti and on the type of hair cell. Hair bundles in the basal turn began growing and reached maturity a few days earlier than those in the apical turn. Stereocilia of outer hair cells matured earlier than those of inner hair cells. Outer hair cell stereocilia reached their adult lengths by 14 days after birth, those of inner hair cells between 16 and 18 days after birth. A kinocilium was present on almost all hair cells on the day of birth, but most were eliminated by 14 days after birth. Tip links were observed as early as 4 days after birth, and their growth appeared to be synchronous with the growth of stereocilia. The spatial gradient of stereocilia length, which increased toward the apex in the adult, was nearly the reverse of that seen at birth. The gradient for inner hair cells was associated with a gradient in the rate of stereocilia growth. The data further expand the foundation for interpreting mechanisms underlying the morphogenesis of stereocilia bundles in mammals and for understanding structure-function relationships during development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Cochlea / cytology
  • Cochlea / growth & development*
  • Cricetinae
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / ultrastructure*
  • Mesocricetus / growth & development*