A Molecular Mechanism for Electrical Tuning of Cochlear Hair Cells

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Science  08 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5399, pp. 215-217
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5399.215

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Cochlear frequency selectivity in lower vertebrates arises in part from electrical tuning intrinsic to the sensory hair cells. The resonant frequency is determined largely by the gating kinetics of calcium-activated potassium (BK) channels encoded by the slogene. Alternative splicing of slo from chick cochlea generated kinetically distinct BK channels. Combination with accessory β subunits slowed the gating kinetics of α splice variants but preserved relative differences between them. In situ hybridization showed that the β subunit is preferentially expressed by low-frequency (apical) hair cells in the avian cochlea. Interaction of β with α splice variants could provide the kinetic range needed for electrical tuning of cochlear hair cells.

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