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J Neurophysiol. 1994 Aug;72(2):1037-40.

Physiologically silent sodium channels in mammalian outer hair cells.

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Department of Physiology, Centre M├ędical Universitaire, Geneva, Switzerland.


1. Voltage-dependent properties of isolated guinea pig outer hair cells (OHCs) were investigated using whole-cell recording. An inward current was detected in approximately 10% of the cells. This inward current was identified as belonging to the voltage-activated sodium current family on the basis of its high sensitivity to tetrodotoxin and the effect of substitution of impermeant ions. Although this is the first report of a sodium current in the mammalian cochlea, it differs from the classical neuronal sodium current by having a variable magnitude from cell to cell and an inactivation that is shifted to hyperpolarized potentials. The sensory processing role of hair cells in general and outer hair cells in particular could be disrupted by the presence of a regenerative voltage-dependent current. The functional role of the OHC sodium channels is puzzling, particularly as they may be silent in vivo.

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