Observations on the Cytoskeleton and Related Structures of Mammalian Cochlear Hair Cells

  • C. M. Hackney
  • D. N. Furness
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA)


The cytoskeleton of sensory hair cells is of particular interest since it is likely to affect the characteristics of mechano-electrical transduction in the cochlea, either indirectly, by maintaining the cellular morphology which results in precise tensions or stiffnesses, or directly, by modifying these features. At least one class of hair cell, the outer hair cell, can undergo both slow and rapid length changes (Brownell, 1985; Ashmore, 1987; Zenner et al., 1987), and the rootlets of stereocilia have been suggested to change in length after noise exposure (Liberman and Dodds 1987). Which cytoskeletal components are involved in these structural changes is not yet known. Ultrastructural differences between outer hair cells (OHCs) and inner hair cells (IHCs) have been proposed to result in differences in function — certain structures have been suggested to occur exclusively in one or other of the two cell types and related to motility as a consequence, e.g., the pillars which link the subsurface cistern to the plasmalemma (Flock et al., 1986). Other structures which occur in both OHCs and IHCs have been suggested to underly the process of transduction itself, e.g. the tip links on stereocilia (Pickles et al., 1984). It is therefore of interest to continue to make ultrastructural observations on the morphology of the hair cells which may be relevant to the mechanics of the cochlea.


Hair Cell Actin Filament Outer Hair Cell Cochlear Hair Cell Sensory Hair Cell 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ashmore, J.F. (1987) A fast motile response in the guinea pig outer hair cells: the cellular basis of the cochlear amplifier. J. Physiol. 388, 323–347.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Brownell, W.E. (1985) Evoked mechanical responses of isolated cochlear outer hair cells. Science 227, 194–196.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brownell, W.E. (1986) Outer hair cell motility and cochlear frequency selectivity. In: Auditory Frequency Selectivity (Eds: Moore, B.J.C. and Patterson, R.D.) Plenum Press, New York and London, pp. 109–116.Google Scholar
  4. Drenkhahn, D., Kellner, J., Mannherz, H.G., Groschel-Steward, U., Kendrick-Jones, J. and Scholey, J. (1982) Absence of myosin-like immunoreactivity in stereocilia of cochlear hair cells. Nature 300, 531–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ekstrom von Lubitz, D.K.J. (1981) Sub-surface tubular system in the outer sensory cells of the rat cochlea. Cell. Tiss. Res. 220, 787–795.Google Scholar
  6. Engstrom, H. and Engstrom, B. (1978) Structure of the hairs on cochlear sensory cells. Hearing Res. 1, 49–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Flock, A. (1985) Contractile and structural proteins in the auditory organ. In: Auditory Biochemistry (Eds: Drescher, D. and Thomas, C.C.) Springfield, Illinois, pp. 310–316.Google Scholar
  8. Flock, A. and Cheung, H.C. (1977) Actin filaments in sensory hairs of inner ear receptor cells. J. Cell. Biol. 75, 339–343.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Flock, A., Flock, B. and Ulfendahl, M. (1986) Mechanisms of movement in outer hair cells and a possible structural basis. Arch. Oto.-Rhino.-Laryngol. 243, 83–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Furness, D.N. and Hackney, C.M. (1985) Cross-links between stereocilia in the guinea pig cochlea. Hearing Res. 18, 177–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Furness, D.N. and Hackney, C.M. (1986a) High-resolution scanning electron microscopy of stereocilia using the osmium thiocarbohydrazide coating technique. Hearing Res. 21, 243–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Furness, D.N. and Hackney, C.M. (1986b) Morphological changes to the stereociliary bundles in the guinea pig cochlea after kanamycin treatment. Brit. J. Audiol. 20, 253–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Furness, D.N. and Hackney, C.M. (1988) Cytoskeletal organisation in the apex of cochlear hair cells. Symposium on Auditory Pathway — Structure and Function (In press).Google Scholar
  14. Furness, D.N., Steyger, P.S. and Hackney, C.M. (1988) The organization of microtubules in cochlear hair cells. Abstr. of the Eleventh Midwinter Research Meeting, Ass. for Res. in Otolaryngol. p. 141.Google Scholar
  15. Hackney, C.M. and Furness, D.N. (1985) The ultrastructural effects of altering calcium levels during preparation of mammalian hair cells for electron microscopy. Abstracts of the XXII Workshop on Inner Ear Biology, p. 16.Google Scholar
  16. Hackney, C.M. and Furness, D.N. (1986) Intercellular cross-linkages between the stereociliary bundles of adjacent hair cells in the guinea pig cochlea. Cell Tiss. Res. 245, 685–688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hackney, C.M., Furness, D.N. and Sayers, D.L. (1988) Stereociliary cross-links between adjacent inner hair cells. Hearing Res. (In press).Google Scholar
  18. Holley, M.C. and Ashmore, J.F. (1988) On the mechanism of a high frequency force generator in outer hair cells isolated from the guinea pig cochlea. Proc. Roy. Soc. London. B. 78.Google Scholar
  19. Kimura, R.S. (1975) The ultrastructure of the organ of Corti. Int. Rev. Cytol. 42, 173–222.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Liberman, M.C. and Dodds, L.W. (1987) Acute ultrastructural changes in acoustic trauma, serial section reconstruction of stereocilia and cuticular plates. Hearing Res. 26, 45–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lim, D.J. (1986) Functional structure of the organ of Corti: a review. Hearing Res. 22, 117–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Macartney, J.C., Comis, S.D. and Pickles, J.O. (1980) Is myosin in the cochlea a basis for active motility? Nature 288, 491–492.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Morup Jorgensen, J. (1982) Microtubules and laminated structures in inner ear hair cells. Acta Oto.-Laryngol. 94, 241–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Osborne, M.P., Comis, S.D. and Pickles, J.O. (1984) Morphology and cross-linkage of stereocilia in the guinea pig labyrinth examined without the use of osmium as a fixative. Cell Tissue Res. 237, 43–48.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Pickles, J.O., Comis, S.D. and Osborne, M.P. (1984) Cross-linkages between stereocilia in the guinea pig organ of Corti, and their possible relation to sensory transduction. Hearing Res. 15, 103–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pickles, J.O., Comis, S.D. and Osborne, M.P. (1987) The effect of chronic application of kanamycin on stereocilia and their tip links in hair cells of the guinea pig cochlea. Hearing Res. 29, 237–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pickles, J.O., Brix, J. Gleich, O., Manley, G.A., Osborne, M.P. and Comis S.D. (1988) The fine structure and organization of tip links on hair cell stereocilia. Basic Issues in Hearing — 8th International Symposium. (In Press).Google Scholar
  28. Santi, P.A. and Anderson, C.B. (1987) A newly identified surface coat on cochlear hair cells. Hearing Res., 27, 47–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Slepecky, N. and Chamberlain, S.C. (1983) Distribution and polarity of actin in inner ear supporting cells. Hearing Res. 10, 359–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Slepecky, N. and Chamberlain, S.C. (1985) Immuno-electron-microscopic and immunofluorescent localization of cytoskeletal and muscle-like contractile proteins in inner ear sensory hair cells. Hearing Res. 20, 245–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Smith, C.A. (1975) The inner ear: its embryological development and microstructure. In: The Nervous System. Vol. 3: Human Communication and Its Disorders, (ed. Turner, D.B.,) Raven Press, New York, pp. 1–18.Google Scholar
  32. Zenner, H.P., Zimmerman, U. and Gitter, A.H. (1987) Fast motility of isolated mammalian auditory sensory cells. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Comm. 149, 304–308.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. M. Hackney
    • 1
  • D. N. Furness
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Communication and NeuroscienceUniversity of KeeleStaffsUK

Personalised recommendations