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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33862. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033862. Epub 2012 Mar 27.

Coupling and elastic loading affect the active response by the inner ear hair cell bundles.

Author information

1
Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.

Abstract

Active hair bundle motility has been proposed to underlie the amplification mechanism in the auditory endorgans of non-mammals and in the vestibular systems of all vertebrates, and to constitute a crucial component of cochlear amplification in mammals. We used semi-intact in vitro preparations of the bullfrog sacculus to study the effects of elastic mechanical loading on both natively coupled and freely oscillating hair bundles. For the latter, we attached glass fibers of different stiffness to the stereocilia and observed the induced changes in the spontaneous bundle movement. When driven with sinusoidal deflections, hair bundles displayed phase-locked response indicative of an Arnold Tongue, with the frequency selectivity highest at low amplitudes and decreasing under stronger stimulation. A striking broadening of the mode-locked response was seen with increasing stiffness of the load, until approximate impedance matching, where the phase-locked response remained flat over the physiological range of frequencies. When the otolithic membrane was left intact atop the preparation, the natural loading of the bundles likewise decreased their frequency selectivity with respect to that observed in freely oscillating bundles. To probe for signatures of the active process under natural loading and coupling conditions, we applied transient mechanical stimuli to the otolithic membrane. Following the pulses, the underlying bundles displayed active movement in the opposite direction, analogous to the twitches observed in individual cells. Tracking features in the otolithic membrane indicated that it moved in phase with the bundles. Hence, synchronous active motility evoked in the system of coupled hair bundles by external input is sufficient to displace large overlying structures.

PMID:
22479461
PMCID:
PMC3313926
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0033862
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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