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Nat Neurosci. 2007 Jan;10(1):87-92. Epub 2006 Dec 17.

Coherent motion of stereocilia assures the concerted gating of hair-cell transduction channels.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Laboratory of Sensory Neuroscience, The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA.


The hair cell's mechanoreceptive organelle, the hair bundle, is highly sensitive because its transduction channels open over a very narrow range of displacements. The synchronous gating of transduction channels also underlies the active hair-bundle motility that amplifies and tunes responsiveness. The extent to which the gating of independent transduction channels is coordinated depends on how tightly individual stereocilia are constrained to move as a unit. Using dual-beam interferometry in the bullfrog's sacculus, we found that thermal movements of stereocilia located as far apart as a hair bundle's opposite edges showed high coherence and negligible phase lag. Because the mechanical degrees of freedom of stereocilia are strongly constrained, a force applied anywhere in the hair bundle deflects the structure as a unit. This feature assures the concerted gating of transduction channels that maximizes the sensitivity of mechanoelectrical transduction and enhances the hair bundle's capacity to amplify its inputs.

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