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J Physiol. 1999 Sep 15;519 Pt 3:791-800.

Expression density and functional characteristics of the outer hair cell motor protein are regulated during postnatal development in rat.

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Department of Otolaryngology, Section of Sensory Biophysics, University of Tübingen, Germany.


1. The non-linear capacitance (Cnon-lin) of postnatal outer hair cells (OHCs) of the rat was measured by a patch-clamp lock-in technique. Cnon-lin is thought to result from a membrane protein that provides the molecular basis for the unique electromotility of OHCs by undergoing conformational changes in response to changes in membrane potential (Vm). Protein conformation is coupled to Vm by a charged voltage sensor, which imposes Cnon-lin on the OHC. Cnon-lin was investigated in order to characterize the surface expression and voltage dependence of this motor protein during postnatal development. 2. On the day of birth (P0), Cnon-lin was not detected in OHCs of the basal turn of the cochlea, whilst it was 89 fF in apical OHCs. Cnon-lin increased gradually during postnatal development and reached 2.3 pF (basal turn, P9) and 7.5 pF (apical turn, P14) at the oldest developmental stages covered by our measurements. The density of the protein in the plasma membrane, deduced from non-linear charge movement per membrane area, increased steeply between P6 and P11 and reached steady state (4200 e- microm-2) at about P12. 3. Voltage at peak capacitance (V) shifted with development from hyperpolarized potentials shortly after birth (-88.3 mV, P2) to the depolarized potential characteristic of mature OHCs (-40.8 mV, P14). This developmental difference in V was also observed in outside-out patches immediately after patch excision. During subsequent wash-out V shifted towards the depolarized value found in the adult state, suggesting a direct modulation of the molecular motor. 4. Thus, the density of the motor protein in the plasma membrane and also its voltage dependence change concomitantly in the postnatal period and reach adult characteristics right at the onset of hearing.

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