Ionic basis of membrane potential in outer hair cells of guinea pig cochlea

J F Ashmore, R W Meech

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

141 Citations (Scopus)


Mammalian hearing involves features not found in other species, for example, the separation of sound frequencies depends on an active control of the cochlear mechanics. The force-generating component in the cochlea is likely to be the outer hair cell (OHC), one of the two types of sensory cell through which current is gated by mechano-electrical transducer channels sited on the apical surface. Outer hair cells isolated in vitro have been shown to be motile and capable of generating forces at acoustic frequencies. The OHC membrane is not, however, electrically tuned, as found in lower vertebrates. Here we describe how the OHC resting potential is determined by a Ca2+-activated K+ conductance at the base of the cell. Two channel types with unitary sizes of 240 and 45 pS underlie this Ca2+-activated K+ conductance and we suggest that their activity is determined by a Ca2+ influx through the apical transducer channel, as demonstrated in other hair cells. This coupled system simultaneously explains the large OHC resting potentials observed in vivo and indicates how the current gated by the transducer may be maximized to generate the forces required in cochlear micromechanics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-71
Number of pages4
Issue number6077
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 1986


  • Animals
  • Cadmium
  • Calcium
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hair Cells, Auditory
  • Ion Channels
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Potassium


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