Cytoarchitecture of the Mouse Organ of Corti from Base to Apex, Determined Using In Situ Two-Photon Imaging

  • Joris A. M. SoonsEmail author
  • Anthony J. Ricci
  • Charles R. Steele
  • Sunil Puria
Research Article


The cells in the organ of Corti are highly organized, with a precise 3D microstructure hypothesized to be important for cochlear function. Here we provide quantitative data on the mouse organ of Corti cytoarchitecture, as determined using a new technique that combines the imaging capabilities of two-photon microscopy with the autofluorescent cell membranes of the genetically modified mTmG mouse. This combination allowed us to perform in situ imaging on freshly excised tissue, thus minimizing any physical distortions to the tissue that extraction from the cochlea and chemical fixation and staining might have caused. 3D image stacks of the organ of Corti were obtained from base to apex in the cochlear duct, from which 3D lengths and relative angles for inner and outer hair cells, Deiters’ cells, phalangeal processes, and inner and outer pillars were measured. In addition, intercellular distances, diameters, and stereocilia shapes were obtained. An important feature of this study is the quantitative reporting of the longitudinal tilts of the outer hair cells towards the base of the cochlea, the tilt of phalangeal processes towards the apex, and Deiters’ cells that collectively form a Y-shaped building block that is thought to give rise to the lattice-like organization of the organ of Corti. The variations of this Y-shaped element along the cochlear duct and between the rows of outer hair cells are shown with the third row morphologically different from the other rows, and their potential importance for the cochlear amplifier is discussed.


cochlea genetically modified Deiters’ cells hair cells stereocilia morphology 



Basilar membrane


Deiters’ cell


Inner pillar


Inner hair cell


Outer hair cell


Organ of Corti


Outer pillar


Phalangeal process


Reticular lamina


Tectorial membrane


Tunnel of Corti



The authors thank M. C. Liberman for helpful discussions and J. Buytaert for sharing the μCT scans of the mouse cochlea. This research was funded by NIH NIDCD grants R01 DC007910 (to SP), R01 DC003896 (to AJR), Core Grant P30 44992, and shared instrumentation grant NIH S10RR027267-01 as well as Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and Belgian American Educational Foundation (BAEF) grants (to JS).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10162_2014_497_MOESM1_ESM.docx (77 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 77 kb)


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Copyright information

© Association for Research in Otolaryngology 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joris A. M. Soons
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Anthony J. Ricci
    • 3
  • Charles R. Steele
    • 1
  • Sunil Puria
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Laboratory of Biomedical PhysicsUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck SurgeryStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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