Supporting sensory transduction: cochlear fluid homeostasis and the endocochlear potential


Corresponding author P. Wangemann: Anatomy & Physiology Department, 205 Coles Hall, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA. Email:


The exquisite sensitivity of the cochlea, which mediates the transduction of sound waves into nerve impulses, depends on the endocochlear potential and requires a highly specialized environment that enables and sustains sensory function. Disturbance of cochlear homeostasis is the cause of many forms of hearing loss including the most frequently occurring syndromic and non-syndromic forms of hereditary hearing loss, Pendred syndrome and Cx26-related deafness. The occurrence of these and other monogenetic disorders illustrates that cochlear fluid homeostasis and the generation of the endocochlear potential are poorly secured by functional redundancy. This review summarizes the most prominent aspects of cochlear fluid homeostasis. It covers cochlear fluid composition, the generation of the endocochlear potential, K+ secretion and cycling and its regulation, the role of gap junctions, mechanisms of acid–base homeostasis, and Ca2+ transport.