Department of Otolaryngology
Case Western Reserve University
11100 Euclid Ave., Mail Stop 5045
Our group is interested in exploring the molecular bases of auditory hair-cell development and operation. Hearing, balance, and, for some aquatic vertebrates, the detection of water movement rely upon the hair cell, a highly specialized mechanoreceptor of the inner ear and lateral-line system. This receptor cell represents mechanical stimuli as electrical responses that are relayed to the brain. Physiologically, hair cells are very well understood and much is known about how they function in hearing. However, to understand the molecular bases of hearing, the genes expressed in hair cells must be identified and their role in hearing evaluated. We have developed a functional genomics approach involving the zebrafish (Danio rerio) (Figure 1) model system that utilizes DNA oligonucleotide microarrays and reverse genetics to explore the molecular mechanisms of hair-cell development and operation. Our research is focused on understanding three aspects of the hair cell: hair-bundle morphogenesis, hair-cell innervation, and ribbon synapse formation and function. We additionally integrate imaging, physiological, transgenic, and behavioral approaches to investigate the biology of the hair cell.