Effect of stress on the membrane capacitance of the auditory outer hair cell

Biophys J. 1993 Jul;65(1):492-8. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(93)81053-1.


The membrane capacitance of the outer hair cell, which has unique membrane potential-dependent motility, was monitored during application of membrane tension. It was found that the membrane capacitance of the cell decreased when stress was applied to the membrane. This result is the opposite of stretching the lipid bilayer in the plasma membrane. It thus indicates the importance of some other capacitance component that decreases on stretching. It has been known that charge movement across the membrane can appear to be a nonlinear capacitance. If membrane stress at the resting potential restricts the movement of the charge associated with force generation, the nonlinear capacitance will decrease. Furthermore, less capacitance reduction by membrane stretching is expected when the membrane is already extended by the (hyperpolarizing) membrane potential. Indeed, it was found that at hyperpolarized potentials, the reduction of the membrane capacitance due to stretching is less. The capacitance change can be described by a two state model of a force-producing unit in which the free energy difference between the contracted and stretched states has both electrical and mechanical components. From the measured change in capacitance, the estimated difference in the membrane area of the unit between the two states is about 2 nm2.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Electric Impedance
  • Electrophysiology
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Models, Neurological
  • Stress, Mechanical