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Sensyt: Sensory Systems, Technologies and Therapies

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Prof. Joerg Albert (Ear Institute)

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(co-Director, Steering Committee member)

Proposed PhD project:

The various sensory modalities share a vast overlap of the molecular machinery that orchestrates the development- and operation - of their specific sensory structures. These molecular, and mechanistic, similarities are reflecting both the evolutionary kinship between all senses as well as a universal set of physical constraints acting upon them. For no other pair of senses, these relations are as striking as for the senses of vision and hearing: The sensory structures of auditory and visual systems of both vertebrates and insects form downstream of the same proneural master gene, named atonal. The axonal wiring of both visual and auditory systems crucially relies on the transcription factor engrailed. Members of the Tubby-like protein (TULP) family are required for the light-induced endocytosis of visual rhodopsins and maintenance of the retina in both flies and mice. In Drosophila, a member of the TULP (dTULP) is essential for the correct localization of mechanotransducer channels in the fly’s auditory neurons. Finally, Drosophila visual rhodopsins have been reported not only to be important contributors to the sense of vision but also to the sense of hearing. With a focus on the specific roles of rhodopsins, this PhD project will explore the molecular, and mechanistic, contributions of visual proteins in fly hearing. To this end, the project will use state-of-the art biophysical and molecular techniques, including Laser-Doppler vibrometry, patch-clamp recordings, as well as computational modelling, bioinformatics and transcriptomic profiling.