Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 265, Issue 3, pp 473–483

Structural features of the lateral walls in mammalian cochlear outer hair cells

  • Andrew Forge

DOI: 10.1007/BF00340870

Cite this article as:
Forge, A. Cell Tissue Res (1991) 265: 473. doi:10.1007/BF00340870


Freeze-fracture, freeze-etching and thin sections have been used to determine features of the structural organisation of the lateral walls in cochlear outer hair cells. The presence of an organised meshwork of filaments in the lateral cortex of the cell is confirmed in intact unfixed cells. This meshwork showed morphological features similar to the cytoskeletal lattice. The lateral plasma membrane is shown to be protein-rich and to contain cholesterol. The membranes of the subplasmalemmal lateral cisternae contain much less protein, and little cholesterol as judged by their responses to filipin and tomatin. These findings indicate differences in the physical properties of the two membrane systems. On the fracture faces of the plasma membrane there is a high density of intramembrane particles and this particle population is heterogeneous. Some particles show morphological features consistent with those of transmembrane channels. Regularly spaced pillars crossing the space between the plasma and cisternal membranes were identified both in thin sections and in freezeetched preparations, but neither the plasma nor cisternal membrane fracture faces showed any feature corresponding directly to the pillar. This suggests the pillars do not insert directly into either membrane. Freeze-fracture and freeze-etching of unfixed cells indicated that the pillar is indirectly associated with the cytoplasmic surface of the plasma membrane, and, at its inner end, linked to the cortical cytoskeletal lattice on the outer surface of the cisternal membrane.

Key words

CochleaFreeze-fractureFreeze-etchingOuter hair cellMembranesCortical cytoskeletonLateral cisternaeGuinea-pigGerbil-Mouse

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Forge
    • 1
  1. 1.Structural Biology Laboratory and Department of Audiology, Institute of Laryngology and OtologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK