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Keywords:

  • chordotonal organ;
  • Johnston's organ;
  • sensory cilia;
  • axoneme;
  • mechanotransduction

Abstract

The Drosophila auditory system is presented as a powerful new genetic model system for understanding the molecular aspects of development and physiology of hearing organs. The fly's ear resides in the antenna, with Johnston's organ serving as the mechanoreceptor. New approaches using electrophysiology and laser vibrometry have provided useful tools to apply to the study of mutations that disrupt hearing. The fundamental developmental processes that generate the peripheral nervous system are fairly well understood, although specific variations of these processes for chordotonal organs (CHO) and especially for Johnston's organ require more scrutiny. In contrast, even the fundamental physiologic workings of mechanosensitive systems are still poorly understood, but rapid recent progress is beginning to shed light. The identification and analysis of mutations that affect auditory function are summarized here, and prospects for the role of the Drosophila auditory system in understanding both insect and vertebrate hearing are discussed. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol 53: 172–189, 2002