Scanning Microscopy


Displacement of the apical stereociliary bundle of cochlear hair cells mechanically gates transducer channels. Knowing the position of the channels with regard to the apical structures of the hair cell could indicate how this mechanism operates. At present, there is conflicting evidence regarding their precise location; the channels have been suggested to be located either towards the base of the stereocilia or at the tips where they could be operated by extracellular links running from the top of shorter stereocilia to the sides of adjacent taller ones. The channels have been shown to be reversibly blocked by amiloride. This has prompted us to use a polyclonal antibody raised against another amiloride-sensitive channel to search for them using immunolabelling. The location of the primary antibody has been revealed using pre-embedding labelling with a colloidal gold-conjugated secondary antibody followed by scanning transmission electron microscopy of semi-thin sections. In this way, more complete information on the relationship of the labelling to the three-dimensional organisation of the stereociliary bundle has been obtained in comparison with previous immunofluorescence and transmission electron microscopic results. Labelling occurs in discrete areas towards the tips of the stereocilia, one of the possible sites for the transducer channels, predominantly between the membranes of shorter and taller stereocilia.

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