The electrical properties of auditory hair cells in the frog amphibian papilla.
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The amphibian papilla (AP) is the principal auditory organ of the frog. Anatomical and neurophysiological evidence suggests that this hearing organ utilizes both mechanical and electrical (hair cell-based) frequency tuning mechanisms, yet relatively little is known about the electrophysiology of AP hair cells. Using the whole-cell patch-clamp technique, we have investigated the electrical properties and ionic currents of isolated hair cells along the rostrocaudal axis of the AP. Electrical resonances were observed in the voltage response of hair cells harvested from the rostral and medial, but not caudal, regions of the AP. Two ionic currents, ICa and IK(Ca), were observed in every hair cell; however, their amplitudes varied substantially along the epithelium. Only rostral hair cells exhibited an inactivating potassium current (IA), whereas an inwardly rectifying potassium current (IK1) was identified only in caudal AP hair cells. Electrically tuned hair cells exhibited resonant frequencies from 50 to 375 Hz, which correlated well with hair cell position and the tonotopic organization of the papilla. Variations in the kinetics of the outward current contribute substantially to the determination of resonant frequency. ICa and IK(Ca) amplitudes increased with resonant frequency, reducing the membrane time constant with increasing resonant frequency. We conclude that a tonotopically organized hair cell substrate exists to support electrical tuning in the rostromedial region of the frog amphibian papilla and that the cellular mechanisms for frequency determination are very similar to those reported for another electrically tuned auditory organ, the turtle basilar papilla.