The Activity of Spontaneous Action Potentials in Developing Hair Cells Is Regulated by Ca2+-Dependence of a Transient K+ Current
Mobile intracellular calcium buffers play an important role in regulating calcium flux into mechanosensory hair cells and calbindin D-28k is expressed at high levels in the chick's basilar papilla. We have used RT-PCR, in situ hybridization, and immunohistology to demonstrate that calbindin expression varies systematically according to hair cell position and developmental age. RT-PCR using microdissected quarters of the posthatch basilar papilla showed that mRNA levels were lowest in the (low frequency) apex and higher in basal quadrants. In situ hybridization revealed calbindin mRNA in posthatch hair cells and supporting cells, with more intense labeling of hair cells from basal (high frequency) positions. A similar topology was obtained with calbindin antibodies. Neither calbindin riboprobe nor calbindin antibody labeled cochlear neurons. In contrast, a subset of large vestibular neurons and their calyciform endings onto Type I vestibular hair cells were strongly labeled by the calbindin antibody, while vestibular hair cells were negative for calbindin immunoreactivity. Likewise, calbindin in situ hybridization was negative for vestibular hair cells but positive in a subset of larger vestibular neurons. Calbindin mRNA was detected in hair cells of the basal half of the papilla at embryonic day 10 (E10) and calbindin immunoreactivity was detected at E12. Hair cells in the apical half of the papilla had equivalent calbindin expression two days later. Immunoreactivity appeared in abneural supporting cells days later than in hair cells, and not until E20 in neurally located supporting cells. These results demonstrate that calbindin message and protein levels are greater in high-frequency hair cells. This "tonotopic" gradient may result from the stabilization of a basal-to-apical developmental gradient and could be related at least in part to calcium channel expression along this axis.