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Nature 1986 Jul 24-30;322(6077):368-71

Ionic basis of membrane potential in outer hair cells of guinea pig cochlea.

Ashmore JF, Meech RW

Department of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences, University of Bristol, UK.

Mammalian hearing involves features not found in other species, for example, the separation of sound frequencies depends on an active control of the cochlear mechanics. The force-generating component in the cochlea is likely to be the outer hair cell (OHC), one of the two types of sensory cell through which current is gated by mechano-electrical transducer channels sited on the apical surface. Outer hair cells isolated in vitro have been shown to be motile and capable of generating forces at acoustic frequencies. The OHC membrane is not, however, electrically tuned, as found in lower vertebrates. Here we describe how the OHC resting potential is determined by a Ca2+-activated K+ conductance at the base of the cell. Two channel types with unitary sizes of 240 and 45 pS underlie this Ca2+-activated K+ conductance and we suggest that their activity is determined by a Ca2+ influx through the apical transducer channel, as demonstrated in other hair cells. This coupled system simultaneously explains the large OHC resting potentials observed in vivo and indicates how the current gated by the transducer may be maximized to generate the forces required in cochlear micromechanics.

PMID: 2426595

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