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Mechanotransduction, the conversion of mechanical force into an electrochemical signal, allows living organisms to detect touch, hear, register movement and gravity, and sense changes in cell volume and shape. Hair cells in the vertebrate inner ear are mechanoreceptor cells specialized for the detection of sound and head movement. Each hair cell contains, at the apical surface, rows of stereocilia that are connected by extracellular filaments to form an exquisitely organized bundle. Mechanotransduction channels, localized near the tips of the stereocilia, are gated by the gating spring, an elastic element that is stretched upon stereocilia deflection and mediates rapid channel opening. Components of the mechanotransduction machinery in hair cells have been identified and several are encoded by genes linked to deafness in humans, which indicates that defects in the mechanotransduction machinery are the underlying cause of some forms of hearing impairment.