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Hear Res. 1994 Jul;78(1):77-90.

First appearance and development of electromotility in neonatal gerbil outer hair cells.

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Department of Neurobiology and Physiology and Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208.


With the purpose of pinpointing the time of onset of electromotility, outer hair cells (OHCs) from apical and basal turns of the cochleae of postnatal gerbils, ranging in age from 6 to 19 days, were isolated and drawn into a glass microchamber. Length changes evoked by transcellular electrical stimulation were detected and measured with a photodiode detector. Motile responses first appeared in 3 out of 14 basal turn OHCs at 7 days after birth (DAB). At 8 DAB, 3 out of 13 apical turn cells also responded to the electrical stimulation. By 12 DAB, all the OHCs from both turns showed motile responses. Input-output functions relating applied stimulus and change in cell length revealed that the motile response threshold improved from 7 DAB to 12 DAB and the response amplitude kept increasing from 7 DAB until 13-14 DAB, when mature amplitudes were reached. Measurements of OHC length revealed only minor changes in basal turn hair cell length while apical hair cells continued to elongate until approximately 16 DAB. Since the onset of auditory function in gerbils occurs around 12 DAB and fine tuning develops between 14 and 17 DAB, our results suggest that the onset of OHC motility occurs earlier than that of auditory function and the maturation of the motility amplitude occurred earlier than the development of fine tuning. The maturation of OHC motility and the development of otoacoustic emissions are also compared and discussed.

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