The properties of the basolateral membrane of cochlear outer hair cells were studied under whole-cell patch clamp to measure currents and capacitance changes associated with mechanical deformation. Stretching the membrane of outer hair cells along the cell axis generated a transient inward current, and subsequent relaxation of the membrane produced a similar transient outward current. These mechanically activated currents were velocity dependent with a mean sensitivity of 29 pA s mm-1. Unlike ionic currents, these currents did not reverse, but reached a peak magnitude at -33 mV. Stretching the cell also resulted in a measurable capacitance decrease of 0.3-1.1 pF microns-1. These results suggest that membrane stretch can induce a rapid charge movement resulting from the reversal of the electromechanical transduction process in outer hair cells.