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Hear Res. 1989 Mar;38(1-2):95-109.

Stereociliary bundle morphology in organotypic cultures of the mouse cochlea.

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  • 1Department of Communication and Neuroscience, University of Keele, U.K.


Organotypic cultures of the neonatal mouse cochlea have a band of hair cells consisting of 3-5 rows of outer hair cells and a single row of inner hair cells. The outer hair cell stereociliary bundles show progressive differentiation from the apical to the basal ends of the band. Undifferentiated apical bundles have a disk-like array of short stereocilia resembling microvilli. Partially differentiated bundles are hemispherical with poorly organized rows of thickly clustered stereocilia, which gradually increase in height in the direction of the kinocilium. More differentiated bundles remain hemispherical with many microvilli-like stereocilia, but have highly organized rows of sterocilia along the side nearest to the kinocilium, and well-defined height increments between the rows. Highly-differentiated, basal bundles usually have a 'V' or 'W' shape, although some can be almost polygonal. The basal bundles have 4-5 regular rows of stereocilia with a well-defined gradient in height across the rows, and very few microvilli-like stereocilia. Cross-links are only consistently observed in more differentiated bundles, where the rows of stereocilia are regular and have significant height increments across them. The links show a wide variety of forms and orientations not previously observed in other preparations. Spoke-like arrays of links project from the upper regions of many stereocilia and other stereocilia appear to bear distinct tip-to-side links, although with a variety of orientations. A similar variety of cross-links is observed in early postnatal cochleae in vivo, but not in the cochleae of adult mice, indicating that this variety may be a transient feature of sterociliary bundle development. In vitro, inner hair cell stereociliary bundles are often covered by overlying material from the developing tectorial membrane. The variations in morphology of inner hair cell bundles and their cross-links are similar to those of the outer hair cell bundles.

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