The structure and symmetry of chinchilla outer hair cell (OHC) stereocilia side and attachment links were investigated by transmission electron microscopy using tannic acid and Cuprolinic blue histochemical procedures. The side links run laterally between and across the rows of the stereocilia and connect the stereocilia together within the bundle. Attachment links form a crown-like array around the tips of only the tallest OHC stereocilia and attach these stereocilia to the Type B fibrils of the tectorial membrane. Computer averaging of the side links from tannic acid-treated tissues showed a central dense region of the link between adjacent stereocilia and a smaller dense portion at the plasma membrane end of the link. Computer averaging of Cuprolinic blue-treated tissues showed low electron density of the central region of the link, and the plasma membrane ends of the link were electron dense. After tannic acid treatment, the attachment links showed a diffused radial distribution around the tips of the tallest OHC stereocilia. After Cuprolinic blue treatment, the attachment links appeared as electron-dense, membrane-bound granular structures arranged with radial symmetry. The central regions of the side links are reactive to tannic acid. These regions appear to contain neutral and basic residues of proteins and participate in side-by-side association of the side links in regular aggregates. Cuprolinic blue-reactive regions of the side and attachment links appear to contain acidic sulfated residues of glycoproteins or proteoglycans, which may be involved in the attachment of these links to the stereocilium membrane.
- Cuprolinic blue
- Image analysis
- Stereocilia links
- Tannic acid
- Transmission electron microscopy