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January 2009 - March 2010

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Medical School
Department of Otolaryngology

PI: Vladimir L. Tsuprun
Co-PI: Steven K. Juhn

Structure of Stereocilia Extracellular Links

Stereocilia are connected together by extracellular links, which are involved in mechanoelectrical transduction, force transmission across the bundle, and maintenance of hair bundle structure. Despite various studies, the molecular composition, structure and relationship between the organization of the links and their properties are poorly understood. Knowledge of the structure of stereocilia links can form a basis for understanding the mechanisms underlying stereocilia function and the pathology related to damage of hair bundles caused by noise, ototoxins and other pathological conditions.

The objective of this project is to obtain more detailed information about the structure, properties, and function of the stereocilia links and their relationship to abnormalities of the stereocilia bundle caused by acoustic trauma. The researchers’ specific aim is to study the structure of stereocilia links of sensory hair bundles. They hypothesize that extracellular stereocilia links are highly ordered structures consisting of symmetric molecular arrays. They are currently extending their preliminary data on the structure and symmetry of the tip links, side links, attachment links and kinocilial links. They hope to find a relationship between the molecular and supramolecular structure of the links and their diverse properties and functions, including how their structural organization determines the mechanical properties of these links and stereocilia bundles. The structural study of the stereocilia links is performed using transmission electron microscopy methods of protein crystallography and computer image analysis.