The resting transducer current drives spontaneous activity in prehearing mammalian cochlear inner hair cells.

Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, United Kingdom.
Journal of Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.75). 08/2012; 32(31):10479-83. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0803-12.2012
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Spontaneous Ca(2+)-dependent electrical activity in the immature mammalian cochlea is thought to instruct the formation of the tonotopic map during the differentiation of sensory hair cells and the auditory pathway. This activity occurs in inner hair cells (IHCs) during the first postnatal week, and the pattern differs along the cochlea. During the second postnatal week, which is before the onset of hearing in most rodents, the resting membrane potential for IHCs is apparently more hyperpolarized (approximately -75 mV), and it remains unclear whether spontaneous action potentials continue to occur. We found that when mouse IHC hair bundles were exposed to the estimated in vivo endolymphatic Ca(2+) concentration (0.3 mm) present in the immature cochlea, the increased open probability of the mechanotransducer channels caused the cells to depolarize to around the action potential threshold (approximately -55 mV). We propose that, in vivo, spontaneous Ca(2+) action potentials are intrinsically generated by IHCs up to the onset of hearing and that they are likely to influence the final sensory-independent refinement of the developing cochlea.

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    ABSTRACT: Hearing relies on faithful signal transmission by cochlear inner hair cells (IHCs) onto auditory fibres over a wide frequency and intensity range. Exocytosis at IHC ribbon synapses is triggered by Ca2+ inflow through CaV1.3 (L-type) Ca2+ channels. We investigated the macroscopic (whole-cell) and elementary (cell-attached) properties of Ca2+ currents in IHCs positioned at the middle turn (frequency ∼2 kHz) of the adult gerbil cochlea, which is their most sensitive hearing region. Using near physiological recordings conditions (body temperature and a Na+ based extracellular solution), we found that the macroscopic Ca2+ current activates and deactivates very rapidly (time constant below 1 ms) and inactivates slowly and only partially. Single-channel recordings showed an elementary conductance of 15 pS, a sub-ms latency to first opening, and a very low steady-state open probability (Po: 0.024 in response to 500-ms depolarizing steps at ∼-18 mV). The value of Po was significantly larger (0.06) in the first 40 ms of membrane depolarization, which corresponds to the time when most Ca2+ channel openings occurred clustered in bursts (mean burst duration: 19 ms). Both the Po and the mean burst duration were smaller than those previously reported in high-frequency basal IHCs. Finally, we found that middle turn IHCs are likely to express about 4 times more Ca2+ channels per ribbon than basal cells. We propose that middle-turn IHCs finely-tune CaV1.3 Ca2+ channel gating in order to provide reliable information upon timing and intensity of lower-frequency sounds.
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