Inner ear hair cells detect sound-induced displacements and transduce these stimuli into electrical signals in a hair bundle that consists of stereocilia that are arranged in rows of increasing height. When stereocilia are deflected, they tug on tiny (~5 nm in diameter) extracellular tip links interconnecting stereocilia, which convey forces to the mechanosensitive transduction channels. Although mechanotransduction has been studied in live hair cells for decades, the functionally important ultrastructural details of the mechanotransduction machinery at the tips of stereocilia (such as tip link dynamics or transduction-dependent stereocilia remodeling) can still be studied only in dead cells with electron microscopy. Theoretically, scanning probe techniques, such as atomic force microscopy, have enough resolution to visualize the surface of stereocilia. However, independent of imaging mode, even the slightest contact of the atomic force microscopy probe with the stereocilia bundle usually damages the bundle. Here we present a detailed protocol for the hopping probe ion conductance microscopy (HPICM) imaging of live rodent auditory hair cells. This non-contact scanning probe technique allows time lapse imaging of the surface of live cells with a complex topography, like hair cells, with single nanometers resolution and without making physical contact with the sample. The HPICM uses an electrical current passing through the glass nanopipette to detect the cell surface in close vicinity to the pipette, while a 3D-positioning piezoelectric system scans the surface and generates its image. With HPICM, we were able to image stereocilia bundles and the links interconnecting stereocilia in live auditory hair cells for several hours without noticeable damage. We anticipate that the use of HPICM will allow direct exploration of ultrastructural changes in the stereocilia of live hair cells for better understanding of their function.
|Number of pages||21|
|Journal||Journal of Visualized Experiments|
|State||Published - Jan 2021|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Prof. Yuri Korchev (Imperial College, UK) for the long-term support and advice throughout all stages of the project. We also thank Drs. Pavel Novak and Andrew Shevchuk (Imperial College, UK) as well as Oleg Belov (National Research Centre for Audiology, Russia) for their help with software development. The study was supported by NIDCD/NIH (R01 DC008861 and R01 DC014658 to G.I.F.).
© 2021 JoVE Journal of Visualized Experiments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuroscience (all)
- Chemical Engineering (all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
- Immunology and Microbiology (all)