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Nat Neurosci. 2007 Feb;10(2):215-23. Epub 2007 Jan 14.

Sharpened cochlear tuning in a mouse with a genetically modified tectorial membrane.

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School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QG, UK.


Frequency tuning in the cochlea is determined by the passive mechanical properties of the basilar membrane and active feedback from the outer hair cells, sensory-effector cells that detect and amplify sound-induced basilar membrane motions. The sensory hair bundles of the outer hair cells are imbedded in the tectorial membrane, a sheet of extracellular matrix that overlies the cochlea's sensory epithelium. The tectorial membrane contains radially organized collagen fibrils that are imbedded in an unusual striated-sheet matrix formed by two glycoproteins, alpha-tectorin (Tecta) and beta-tectorin (Tectb). In Tectb(-/-) mice the structure of the striated-sheet matrix is disrupted. Although these mice have a low-frequency hearing loss, basilar-membrane and neural tuning are both significantly enhanced in the high-frequency regions of the cochlea, with little loss in sensitivity. These findings can be attributed to a reduction in the acting mass of the tectorial membrane and reveal a new function for this structure in controlling interactions along the cochlea.

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