The tip links between stereocilia of acousticolateral hair cells have been suggested to contain cadherin 23 (CDH23) comprising an upper branched portion that is bound to a lower portion composed of protocadherin 15 (PCDH15). The molecular conformation of CDH23, its binding to PCDH15, the tip links, and mechanoelectrical transduction have all been shown previously to be sensitive to exposure to low levels of calcium. The aim of this study was to compare the characteristics of tip links in guinea-pig cochlear hair cells with reported features of the CDH23-PCDH15 complex. Tip links were examined using field emission scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy in conventional preparations and after treatment with the detergent Triton-X-100 or varying calcium concentrations in the extracellular solution. The results showed that tip links have a twisted double-stranded appearance with a branched upper region. They survived demembranation of the stereocilia by detergent suggesting that they have transmembrane domains at both ends. Their lengths, when fixed in the presence of 2 mM extracellular calcium, were ∼150 nm. With prior exposure to 1 mM calcium their lengths were ∼164 nm. The lengths in 50 μM calcium are similar (∼185 nm) to those reported for CDH23-PCDH15 complexes in 100 μM calcium (∼180 nm). Exposure to 1 μM calcium caused loss of tip links and an increased distance between the residual attachment sites. The data indicate that extracellular calcium concentration affects tip-link length. One model compatible with the recently proposed tip-link structure is that the CDH23 double strand undergoes calcium-dependent unfolding, changing the length of the links. The bundle may also tilt in the direction of the tallest row of stereocilia as the tip link lengthens and then is lost. Overall, our data are consistent with a tip link composed of complexes of CDH23 and PCDH15 but do not rule out other possibilities.
|Number of pages||12|
|Publication status||Published - 2008 Jun 12|
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