Prestin links extrinsic tuning to neural excitation in the mammalian cochlea

Thomas Weddell, Marcia Mellado-Lagarde, Victoria Lukashkina, Andrei Lukashkin, Jian Zuo, Ian Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hearing organs are usually distributed in tonotopic array from low to high frequencies and are very sensitively and sharply tuned to acoustic stimulation. Frequency tuning and tonotopicity of non-mammalian auditory hair cells is due largely to intrinsic properties of the hair cells [1], but frequency tuning and tonotopic organisation of the mammalian cochlea has an extrinsic basis in the basilar membrane (BM); a spiralling ribbon of collagen-rich extracellular matrix that decreases in stiffness from the high-frequency base of the cochlea to the low-frequency apex [2,3]. Sensitive frequency tuning is due to amplification, which specifically boosts low-level input to the mechanosensitive hair cells at their tonotopic location to overcome viscous damping [1-3]. In non-mammalian hearing organs, at least, amplification is attributed to calcium-mediated hair bundle motion [1]. In the mammalian cochlea, amplification is the remit of the sensory-motor outer hair cells (OHCs), located within the organ of Corti to exercise maximum mechanical effect on the motion of the BM and transmit cochlear responses to the adjacent sensory inner hair cells (IHCs) and, consequently, to the auditory nerve [1-3] (Figure 1A). OHCs behave like piezoelectric actuators, developing forces along their long axis in response to changes in membrane potential [2]. These forces are due to voltage-dependent conformational changes in the motor molecule prestin, which is densely distributed in the OHC lateral membranes [2].
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)682-683
Number of pages2
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2011


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