Mechanotransduction-Dependent Control of Stereocilia Dimensions and Row Identity in Inner Hair Cells

Jocelyn F. Krey, Paroma Chatterjee, Rachel A. Dumont, Mary O'Sullivan, Dongseok Choi, Jonathan E. Bird, Peter G. Barr-Gillespie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Actin-rich structures, like stereocilia and microvilli, are assembled with precise control of length, diameter, and relative spacing. By quantifying actin-core dimensions of stereocilia from phalloidin-labeled mouse cochleas, we demonstrated that inner hair cell stereocilia developed in specific stages, where a widening phase is sandwiched between two lengthening phases. Moreover, widening of the second-tallest stereocilia rank (row 2) occurred simultaneously with the appearance of mechanotransduction. Correspondingly, Tmc1KO/KO;Tmc2KO/KO or TmieKO/KO hair cells, which lack transduction, have significantly altered stereocilia lengths and diameters, including a narrowed row 2. EPS8 and the short splice isoform of MYO15A, identity markers for mature row 1 (the tallest row), lost their row exclusivity in transduction mutants. GNAI3, another member of the mature row 1 complex, accumulated at mutant row 1 tips at considerably lower levels than in wild-type bundles. Alterations in stereocilia dimensions and in EPS8 distribution seen in transduction mutants were mimicked by block of transduction channels of cochlear explants in culture. In addition, proteins normally concentrated at mature row 2 tips were also distributed differently in transduction mutants; the heterodimeric capping protein subunit CAPZB and its partner TWF2 never concentrated at row 2 tips like they do in wild-type bundles. The altered distribution of marker proteins in transduction mutants was accompanied by increased variability in stereocilia length. Transduction channels thus specify and maintain row identity, control addition of new actin filaments to increase stereocilia diameter, and coordinate stereocilia height within rows. Krey et al. show that actin cores of mouse cochlea stereocilia grow in stages that correlate with the acquisition of transduction. Blocking transduction using mouse mutants or channel blockers leads to altered stereocilia dimensions, and in both cases, proteins that specify the length of row 1 are distributed more broadly in the hair bundle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)442-454.e7
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 3 2020


  • Airyscan
  • actin
  • development
  • hair bundle
  • hair cells
  • mechanotransduction
  • myosin
  • stereocilia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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