Auditory hair cells from nonmammalian vertebrates are electrically tuned to specific sound frequencies primarily by the interactions of voltage-gated calcium channels and calcium-activated potassium (BK) channels colocalized at synaptic active zones. Mammalian inner hair cells are not electrically tuned and, yet, BK channels are also thought to reside at active zones. Using patch-clamp recordings and immunofluorescence, we characterized BK channel expression in mouse inner hair cells. Unexpectedly, these channels have inactivating currents and are clustered near the apex of the cell away from synaptic sites near the base. These results indicate a novel function of BK channels in mammalian inner hair cells and provide a framework for future research.
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