Send to

Choose Destination
J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2009 Sep;10(3):383-96. doi: 10.1007/s10162-009-0171-1. Epub 2009 Jun 11.

Lipid lateral mobility in cochlear outer hair cells: regional differences and regulation by cholesterol.

Author information

Department of Bioengineering, Rice University, MS-142, Houston, TX 77251-1892, USA.


The outer hair cell (OHC) lateral plasma membrane houses the transmembrane protein prestin, a necessary component of the yet unknown molecular mechanism(s) underlying electromotility and the exquisite sensitivity and frequency selectivity of mammalian hearing. The importance of the plasma membrane environment in modulating OHC electromotility has been substantiated by recent studies demonstrating that membrane cholesterol alters prestin activity in a manner consistent with cholesterol-induced changes in auditory function. Cholesterol is known to affect membrane material properties, and measurements of lipid lateral mobility provide a method to asses these changes in living OHCs. Using fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP), we characterized regional differences in the lateral diffusion of the lipid analog di-8-ANEPPS in OHCs and investigated whether lipid mobility, which reflects membrane fluidity, is sensitive to membrane cholesterol. FRAP experiments revealed quantitative differences in lipid lateral mobility among the apical, lateral, and basal regions of the OHC and demonstrated that diffusion in individual regions is uniquely sensitive to cholesterol manipulations. Interestingly, in the lateral region, both cholesterol depletion and loading significantly reduced the effective diffusion coefficient from control values. Thus, the fluidity of the OHC lateral plasma membrane is regulated by cholesterol levels in a non-monotonic manner, suggesting that the overall material properties of the lateral plasma membrane are optimally tuned for OHC function in the native state. These results support the idea that the cholesterol-dependent regulation of prestin function and electromotility correlates with changes in the properties of the lipid environment that surrounds and supports prestin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center