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Hear Res. 2006 Feb;212(1-2):140-59. Epub 2006 Jan 19.

Slow motility in hair cells of the frog amphibian papilla: Ca2+-dependent shape changes.

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Department of Physiological Science, 621 Charles E. Young Drive S. University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1606, USA.


We investigated the process of slow motility in non-mammalian auditory hair cells by recording the time course of shape change in hair cells of the frog amphibian papilla. The tall hair cells in the rostral segment of this organ, reported to be the sole recipients of efferent innervation, were found to shorten in response to an increase in the concentration of the intracellular free calcium. These shortenings are composed of two partially-overlapping phases: an initial rapid iso-volumetric contraction, followed by a slower length decrease accompanied with swelling. It is possible to unmask the iso-volumetric contraction by delaying the cell swelling with the help of K+ or Cl- channel inhibitors, quinine or furosemide. Furthermore, it appears that the longitudinal contraction in these cells is Ca2+-calmodulin-dependent: in the presence of W-7, a calmodulin inhibitor, only a slow, swelling phase could be observed. These findings suggest that amphibian rostral AP hair cells resemble their mammalian counterparts in expressing both a Ca2+-calmodulin-dependent contractile structure and an "osmotic" mechanism capable of mediating length change in response to extracellular stimuli. Such a mechanism might be utilized by the efferent neurotransmitters for adaptive modulation of mechano-electrical transduction, sensitivity enhancement, frequency selectivity, and protection against over-stimulation.

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