Modeling the mechanics of tethers pulled from the cochlear outer hair cell membrane

Kristopher R. Schumacher, Aleksander S. Popel, Bahman Anvari, William E. Brownell, Alexander A. Spector

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Cell membrane tethers are formed naturally (e.g., in leukocyte rolling) and experimentally to probe membrane properties. In cochlear outer hair cells, the plasma membrane is part of the trilayer lateral wall, where the membrane is attached to the cytoskeleton by a system of radial pillars. The mechanics of these cells is important to the sound amplification and frequency selectivity of the ear. We present a modeling study to simulate the membrane deflection, bending, and interaction with the cytoskeleton in the outer hair cell tether pulling experiment. In our analysis, three regions of the membrane are considered: the body of a cylindrical tether, the area where the membrane is attached and interacts with the cytoskeleton, and the transition region between the two. By using a computational method, we found the shape of the membrane in all three regions over a range of tether lengths and forces observed in experiments. We also analyze the effects of biophysical properties of the membrane, including the bending modulus and the forces of the membrane adhesion to the cytoskeleton. The model's results provide a better understanding of the mechanics of tethers pulled from cell membranes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number031007-1
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Active hearing
  • Adhesion
  • Bending
  • Cell mechanics
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Elastic shell model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Physiology (medical)


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