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J Cell Biol. 1991 Feb;112(4):641-51.

Three different actin filament assemblies occur in every hair cell: each contains a specific actin crosslinking protein.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, University of Würzburg, Federal Republic of Germany.


The apex of hair cells of the chicken auditory organ contains three different kinds of assemblies of actin filaments in close spatial proximity. These are (a) paracrystals of actin filaments with identical polarity in stereocilia, (b) a dense gellike meshwork of actin filaments forming the cuticular plate, and (c) a bundle of parallel actin filaments with mixed polarities that constitute the circumferential filament belt attached to the cytoplasmic aspect of the zonula adhaerens (ZA). Each different supramolecular assembly of actin filaments contains a specific actin filament cross-linking protein which is unique to that particular assembly. Thus fimbrin appears to be responsible for paracrystallin packing of actin filaments in stereocillia; an isoform of spectrin resides in the cuticular plate where it forms the whisker-like crossbridges, and alpha actinin is the actin crosslinking protein of the circumferential ZA bundle. Tropomyosin, which stabilizes actin filaments, is present in all the actin filament assemblies except for the stereocilia. Another striking finding was that myosin appears to be absent from the ZA ring and cuticular plate of hair cells although present in the ZA ring of supporting cells. The abundance of myosin in the ZA ring of the surrounding supporting cells means that it may be important in forming a supporting tensile cellular framework in which the hair cells are inserted.

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