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J Neurophysiol. 2000 May;83(5):2740-56.

Membrane properties of chick semicircular canal hair cells in situ during embryonic development.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiologiche-Farmacologiche Cellulari-Molecolari, Sez. di Fisiologia Generale e Biofisica Cellulare, 27100 Pavia, Italy.


The electrophysiological properties of developing vestibular hair cells have been investigated in a chick crista slice preparation, from embryonic day 10 (E10) to E21 (when hatching would occur). Patch-clamp whole-cell experiments showed that different types of ion channels are sequentially expressed during development. An inward Ca(2+) current and a slow outward rectifying K(+) current (I(K(V))) are acquired first, at or before E10, followed by a rapid transient K(+) current (I(K(A))) at E12, and by a small Ca-dependent K(+) current (I(KCa)) at E14. Hair cell maturation then proceeds with the expression of hyperpolarization-activated currents: a slow I(h) appears first, around E16, followed by the fast inward rectifier I(K1) around E19. From the time of its first appearance, I(K(A)) is preferentially expressed in peripheral (zone 1) hair cells, whereas inward rectifying currents are preferentially expressed in intermediate (zone 2) and central (zone 3) hair cells. Each conductance conferred distinctive properties on hair cell voltage response. Starting from E15, some hair cells, preferentially located at the intermediate region, showed the amphora shape typical of type I hair cells. From E17 (a time when the afferent calyx is completed) these cells expressed I(K, L), the signature current of mature type I hair cells. Close to hatching, hair cell complements and regional organization of ion currents appeared similar to those reported for the mature avian crista. By the progressive acquisition of different types of inward and outward rectifying currents, hair cell repolarization after both positive- and negative-current injections is greatly strengthened and speeded up.

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