1. Cochlear outer hair cells 20-80 μm in length were compressed axially in vitro using calibrated glass fibers mounted on a piezoelectric actuator. 2. When driven by rectangular pulses in the compression direction, the motion of the fiber tip consisted of a rapid initial compression that was complete in 10-20 ms followed by a smaller compression of slower time course. 3. The initial fiber deflections were found to be linear in amplitude for compressions up to 400 nm. The axial compliances of outer hair cells were calculated from the difference between the fiber tip motions when unattached and when in contact with a cell. Axial compliances were found to be in the range of 0.04-1.2 km/N for 149 cells. The axial compliance was an increasing function of cell length. 4. The peak forces generated by electrically stimulated outer hair cells were measured from the deflection of a glass fiber when the cells were stimulated by sinusoidal voltage commands. The slope gains of force generation (force generated per mV of command at the cell membrane) were estimated to range from 0.01 to 100 pN/mV. Most of the results fell in the range of 0.1-20 pN/mV. 5. When the apparent stiffness of the fiber was increased by moving the cell closer to the fiber base, the peak amplitude of the fiber deflection generated by the cell decreased and the peak force increased, for the same sinusoidal voltage command. 6. The results of the previous experiment were interpreted in the light of a model of outer hair cell motility in which an ideal extension generating element is in series with an internal stiffness element. This internal stiffness was then calculated for 13 cells. 7. The internal stiffnesses of cells calculated by the above procedure were found to be positively correlated with the axial stiffness measurements obtained for the same cells. 8. The implications of the above results for the effectiveness of outer hair cell motility in vivo are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes