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J Neurosci. 2006 Oct 4;26(40):10243-52.

A new compartment at stereocilia tips defined by spatial and temporal patterns of myosin IIIa expression.

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  • 1Section on Structural Cell Biology, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Class III myosins are motor proteins that contain an N-terminal kinase domain and a C-terminal actin-binding domain. We show that myosin IIIa, which has been implicated in nonsyndromic progressive hearing loss, is localized at stereocilia tips. Myosin IIIa progressively accumulates during stereocilia maturation in a thimble-like pattern around the stereocilia tip, distinct from the cap-like localization of myosin XVa and the shaft localization of myosin Ic. Overexpression of deletion mutants for functional domains of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-myosin IIIa shows that the motor domain, but not the actin-binding tail domain, is required for stereocilia tip localization. Deletion of the kinase domain produces stereocilia elongation and bulging of the stereocilia tips. The thimble-like localization and the influence myosin IIIa has on stereocilia shape reveal a previously unrecognized molecular compartment at the distal end of stereocilia, the site of actin polymerization as well as operation of the mechanoelectrical transduction apparatus.

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