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Biophys J. 2002 Mar;82(3):1386-95.

Membrane tether formation from outer hair cells with optical tweezers.

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Department of Bioengineering, Rice University, Houston, Texas 77251, USA.


Optical tweezers were used to characterize the mechanical properties of the outer hair cell (OHC) plasma membrane by pulling tethers with 4.5-microm polystyrene beads. Tether formation force and tether force were measured in static and dynamic conditions. A greater force was required for tether formations from OHC lateral wall (499 +/- 152 pN) than from OHC basal end (142 +/- 49 pN). The difference in the force required to pull tethers is consistent with an extensive cytoskeletal framework associated with the lateral wall known as the cortical lattice. The apparent plasma membrane stiffness, estimated under the static conditions by measuring tether force at different tether length, was 3.71 pN/microm for OHC lateral wall and 4.57 pN/microm for OHC basal end. The effective membrane viscosity was measured by pulling tethers at different rates while continuously recording the tether force, and estimated in the range of 2.39 to 5.25 pN x s/microm. The viscous force most likely results from the viscous interactions between plasma membrane lipids and the OHC cortical lattice and/or integral membrane proteins. The information these studies provide on the mechanical properties of the OHC lateral wall is important for understanding the mechanism of OHC electromotility.

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