Biomechanics of hair cell kinocilia: experimental measurement of kinocilium shaft stiffness and base rotational stiffness with Euler-Bernoulli and Timoshenko beam analysis
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Vestibular hair cell bundles in the inner ear contain a single kinocilium composed of a 9+2 microtubule structure. Kinocilia play a crucial role in transmitting movement of the overlying mass, otoconial membrane or cupula to the mechanotransducing portion of the hair cell bundle. Little is known regarding the mechanical deformation properties of the kinocilium. Using a force-deflection technique, we measured two important mechanical properties of kinocilia in the utricle of a turtle, Trachemys (Pseudemys) scripta elegans. First, we measured the stiffness of kinocilia with different heights. These kinocilia were assumed to be homogenous cylindrical rods and were modeled as both isotropic Euler-Bernoulli beams and transversely isotropic Timoshenko beams. Two mechanical properties of the kinocilia were derived from the beam analysis: flexural rigidity (El) and shear rigidity (kGA). The Timoshenko model produced a better fit to the experimental data, predicting El=10,400 pN mu m(2) and kGA=247 pN. Assuming a homogenous rod, the shear modulus (G=1.9 kPa) was four orders of magnitude less than Young's modulus (E=14.1 MPa), indicating that significant shear deformation occurs within deflected kinocilia. When analyzed as an Euler-Bernoulli beam, which neglects translational shear, El increased linearly with kinocilium height, giving underestimates of El for shorter kinocilia. Second, we measured the rotational stiffness of the kinocilium insertion (kappa) into the hair cell's apical surface. Following BAPTA treatment to break the kinocilial links, the kinocilia remained upright, and kappa was measured as 177 +/- 47 pN mu m rad(-1). The mechanical parameters we quantified are important for understanding how forces arising from head movement are transduced and encoded by hair cells.