Increasing intracellular free calcium induces circumferential contractions in isolated cochlear outer hair cells.
J Neurosci.. 1990-04-15; (10): 4
The relationship between intracellular free calcium and the motile responses of outer hair cells isolated from the guinea pig cochlea was examined. Calcium levels were modulated by the addition of the calcium ionophores ionomycin or A23187 to the incubation medium and monitored with the fluorescent calcium indicator fluo-3. In the presence of 1.25 mM external calcium, the application of either ionophore (10 microM) led to an increase in intracellular free calcium from 157 +/- 76 nM to 1200 +/- 500 nM within 30-60 sec. Concurrently, cells elongated by 1-2 microns, cell diameter decreased, and cell volume shrank by 269 +/- 220 microns 3 (5.0 +/- 4.1%). The reduction in diameter was most pronounced in the middle portion of the cell (4.4% +/- 4.2%), also evident in the apical region (3.1% +/- 4.8%) but not significant in the basal region near the nucleus. This response was observed in outer hair cells from basal and apical turns of the cochlea and was reversed when the cells were rinsed with calcium–free medium supplemented with 2 mM EGTA. Optical imaging of the cell membrane with the potentiometric dye 1-(3-sulfonatopropyl)-4-beta 2-(di-n-butylaminol)-6-naphthyl vinyl pyridinium betaine during the elevation of intracellular calcium demonstrated features of contractility at the lateral cell membrane. A rise in intracellular calcium as well as the motile response was still observed after a 5-min exposure of the cells to a calcium–free solution (supplemented with 2 mM EGTA), indicating that the ionophore was also able to liberate calcium from intracellular sites. However, depletion of calcium stores through prolonged incubation of the cells in calcium–free medium (30-60 min) suppressed both the calcium signal and the cell response. The calmodulin inhibitors trifluoperazine and pimozide (30 microM) blocked the cell motility induced by ionomycin while they left the increase of intracellular calcium unaffected. These observations suggest that calcium-dependent circumferential contractions in outer hair cells are mediated by calmodulin. The application to the extracellular medium of putative neurotransmitters of the cochlear efferent system such as acetylcholine and GABA led to neither an increase in intracellular calcium nor a modification of cell shape. Therefore, these neurotransmitters may not be directly involved in calcium-induced contractions in outer hair cells. The circumferential contractions altered the stiffness of the plasma membrane and the turgor of the cell. Under normal conditions, changes in cell volume were inversely proportional to the osmotic pressure of the extracellular medium following van’t Hoff’s law.