By direct counts off scanning electron micrographs, we determined the number of stereocilia per hair cell of the chicken cochlea as a function of the position of the hair cell on the cochlea. Micrographs of thin cross sections of stereociliary bundles located at known positions on the cochlea were enlarged and the total number of actin filaments per stereocilium was counted and recorded. By comparing the counts of filament number with measurements of actin filament bundle width of the same stereocilium, we were able to relate actin filament bundle width to filament number with an error margin (r2) of 16%. Combining this data with data already published or in the process of publication from our laboratory on the length and width of stereocilia, we were able to calculate the total length of actin filaments present in stereociliary bundles of hair cells located at a variety of positions on the cochlea. We found that stereociliary bundles of hair cells contain 80,000-98,000 micron of actin filament, i.e., the concentration of actin is constant in all hair cells with a range of values that is less than our error in measurement and/or biological variation, the greatest variation being in relating the diameters of the stereocilia to filament number. We also calculated the membrane surface needed to cover the stereocilia of hair cells located throughout the cochlea. The values (172-192 micron 2) are also constant. The implications of our observation that the total amount of actin is constant even though the length, width, and number of stereocilia per hair cell vary are discussed.

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