Human mutations in actomyosin molecular motors result in deafness and blindness but the underlying molecular mechanisms are unresolved. Current research on the role of these motors in the auditory system has focused on their function in cytoplasmic compartments of hair cells (stereocilia). Using large salivary gland nuclei of Drosophila melanogaster we have localized nuclear and perinuclear actomyosin molecular motors in both living and fixed preparations which suggest a role in nuclear structure and/or function. The long-term goal of this research is to elucidate the in vivo role of nuclear and perinuclear actomyosin motors by utilizing a range of classical genetic, molecular genetic, biophysical, biochemical and cell biological approaches.
In collaboration with Dan Eberl's lab (University of Iowa) we showed that myosin VIIA is also essential for fly hearing - remarkably, its human homolog is also required for human hearing, even though the mechanisms of auditory sensory reception in these phylogenetically divergent systems are very different.