The sensory epithelium of the chick cochlea contains only two cell types, hair cells and supporting cells. We developed methods to rapidly dissect out the sensory epithelium and to prepare a detergent-extracted cytoskeleton. High salt treatment of the cytoskeleton leaves a "hair border", containing actin filament bundles of the stereocilia still attached to the cuticular plate. On SDS-PAGE stained with silver the intact epithelium is seen to contain a large number of bands, the most prominent of which are calbindin and actin. Detergent extraction solubilizes most of the proteins including calbindin. On immunoblots antibodies prepared against fimbrin from chicken intestinal epithelial cells cross react with the 57- and 65-kD bands present in the sensory epithelium and the cytoskeleton. It is probable that the 57-kD is a proteolytic fragment of the 65-kD protein. Preparations of stereocilia attached to the overlying tectorial membrane contain the 57- and 65-kD bands. A 400-kD band is present in the cuticular plate. By immunofluorescence, fimbrin is detected in stereocilia but not in the hair borders after salt extraction. The prominent 125 A transverse stripping pattern characteristic of the actin cross-bridges in a bundle is also absent in hair borders suggesting fimbrin as the component that gives rise to the transverse stripes. Because the actin filaments in the stereocilia of hair borders still remain as compact bundles, albeit very disordered, there must be an additional uncharacterized protein besides fimbrin that cross-links the actin filaments together.

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