Scanning Microscopy


The development of ideas on mechanotransduction in acousticolateral hair cells is described, leading to the current idea that transduction depends on deflection of the bundle of stereocilia by a force parallel to the plane of the sensory epithelium. Electrophysiological experiments are summarised, suggesting that transduction depends on a shear between the different rows of stereocilia, and that the transducer channels are situated towards the tips of the stereocilia. Analysis of the ways that shear between the rows of stereocilia could be detected suggests that tip links are the structures which are most likely to transmit the stimulus-induced forces to the transducer channels on the membrane. The directional selectivity of mechanotransduction is associated with the position of the kinocilium and gradation in heights of the stereocilia; evidence is presented suggesting that in the lateral line these are partly determined by the mitosis giving rise to the hair cell. Tip links differentiate out of links which initially join the stereocilia in all directions, with their final spatial organisation, which sets the directional selectivity of mechanotransduction, probably being determined by the gradient in growth of the stereocilia.

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