Transduction-channel gating by hair cells apparently requires a gating spring, an elastic element that transmits force to the channels. To determine whether the gating spring is the tip link, a filament interconnecting two stereocilia along the axis of mechanical sensitivity, we examined the tip link's structure at high resolution by using rapid-freeze, deep-etch electron microscopy. We found that the tip link is a right-handed, coiled double filament that usually forks into two branches before contacting a taller stereocilium; at the other end, several short filaments extend to the tip link from the shorter stereocilium. The structure of the tip link suggests that it is either a helical polymer or a braided pair of filamentous macromolecules and is thus likely to be relatively stiff and inextensible. Such behavior is incompatible with the measured elasticity of the gating spring, suggesting that the gating spring instead lies in series with the helical segment of the tip link.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Nov 21 2000|
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