, Volume 194, Issue 5, pp 501-514

Tectorial membrane-organ of Corti relationship during cochlear development

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Abstract

The development of stereociliary attachment to the tectorial membrane was investigated in the mouse cochlea using transmission and scanning electron microscopy. At the 18th gestational day, only the major tectorial membrane can be identified covering the greater epithelial ridge and the inner hair cells in all turns. At the 19th gestational day, the minor tectorial membrane was first seen in the basal turn, over the outer hair cells. During early stages of development, the stereocilia of hair cells were surrounded by a loose fibrillar material underneath the tectorial membrane. After the 10th postnatal day, the outer hair cells' stereocilia were attached to Kimura's (or Hardesty's) membrane, while inner hair cells' stereociliary bundles were attached to the undersurface of the tectorial membrane near the Hensen's stripe. Between the 10th and the 14th postnatal days, the space between the inner hair cells and the first row of outer hair cells widened by virtue of the growth of the heads of pillar cells, and the inner hair cells' stereocilia were displaced towards the Hensen's stripe. After the 14th postnatal day, the inner hair cells' stereociliary bundles detached from the tectorial membrane, while the outer hair cells' stereocilia remained attached to it. The tip-link system, which connects the tips of the stereocilia to the next tallest stereocilia, is present at birth in the outer hair cells. The marginal pillar, that anchored the tectorial membrane to the underlying organ of Corti during development, first appeared on the 6th postnatal day and disappeared on the 14th–15th postnatal day. The present data together with other reports support the idea that although some structures, such as hair cells' stereocilia and innervation, are already formed early during development, the cochlear microarchitecture is not fully developed morphologically and ready to function normally until the end of the second postnatal week in the mouse.