A newly identified surface coat on cochlear hair cells

Peter A Santi, Craig B. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Routine electron microscope methods do not well preserve or stain the surface coat or glycocalyx on cochlear hair cells. In other tissues, enhanced preservation and staining of these glycoconjugates was obtained following fixation with glutaraldehyde containing a cationic dye (e.g., Alcian blue and ruthenium red). When cochleas were fixed with glutaraldehyde containing Alcian blue, the endolymphatic surface of hair cells, but not the supporting cells, displayed an extensive (∼90 nm thick) surface coat. Alcian blue positive material was also observed in the tectorial and basilar membranes and in a portion of the spiral ligament. In addition, acellular bands of Alcian blue positive material were observed between the tectorial membrane and the reticular lamina or inner sulcus cells. Although the function of these cochlear glycoconjugates is not yet known, it is proposed that they serve to attach the tectorial membrane to the organ of Corti, and they are involved in stereocilia fusion following sound exposure and ototoxic drug administration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-65
Number of pages19
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1987


  • Alcian blue
  • Cochlea
  • Glycocalyx
  • Glycoconjugate
  • Organ of Corti
  • Ruthenium red
  • Stereocilia
  • Surface coat


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