The University of Iowa
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
The Department of Biology

Faculty Information

Daniel Eberl

Daniel Eberl

Ph.D., University of Guelph (Canada) 1991
259 BB
(319) 335-1323
Printable PDF Version

Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Hearing and Auditory Behavior

Auditory systems allow organisms to capitalize on information from sounds in the environment. We are interested in the molecular and cellular mechanisms of how organisms detect sound, and how they use the information from sounds to direct their behavior.

We use Drosophila as a model system to examine these processes. The Drosophila male, when courting a female, extends one wing and vibrates it to sing the "love song." The female and the male both hear the love song with their antennae and respond in a sex-specific manner. In Drosophila we can combine genetics with behavioral and electrophysiological methods to dissect hearing mechanisms. We have identified mutant flies that no longer respond to sound. One of these mutants, called beethoven, disrupts the normal neuronal electrophysiology of Johnston's organ (JO), the ciliated mechanoreceptive organ in the antenna responsible for hearing. Identifying the gene product of beethoven and other such genes and examining their functional roles in hearing will provide new insights into auditory molecular mechanisms, not only in Drosophila, but perhaps in humans as well.

Another goal is to further understand how organisms decipher the meaning in auditory information, and how different individuals, for example males and females, can respond differently to the same sounds. To this end we want to characterize the firing patterns in the sensory neurons in response to different sounds, then elucidate the neuronal circuitry by which these patterns are decoded in the brain, assimilated with other sensory inputs and memories, and resolved into motor outputs. These studies are facilitated by genetically engineered Drosophila strains that express marker genes in specific subsets of neurons. In our auditory mutant collection, we expect to find disruptions in genes required for the normal development of neurons in the auditory circuitry, or disruptions in genes required for these neurons to function properly in a sexually dimorphic manner.

We still have much to learn about the kinds of sounds to which the fly responds. Two main auditory components occur in the D. melanogaster love song: the pulse song and the sine song. While the pulse song and the sine song both stimulate receptive females, only the pulse song triggers males to court. Are there other roles for these defined sounds in Drosophila courtship? Could there be sounds that evoke other behaviors besides courtship, such as escape from predators? Answers to these questions, our third major goal, will provide a more thorough understanding of how an organism overcomes its environmental and social challenges. Moreover, they will give us more complete tools with which to dissect auditory mechanisms.

Figure 1 shows a male oriented toward a female and singing the love song by vibrating his wing (arrow).

Figure 2 shows in the left panel a pupal antenna expressing fluorescent proteins in the neurons (magenta) and in the dendritic cap (green); middle panel a TEM with longitudinal view of a single JO scolopidium,  pseudocolored to resemble colors in left panel; right panel shows high magnification TEM through a JO sensory cilium, pseudocolored to show the ciliary membrane (peach), microtubule doublets (purple) inner dynein arms (yellow), outer dynein arms (green) and an accessory microtubule derivative (navy).

Click on a thumbnail to view image and description:
Figure 1
Figure 2

Selected Publications

M. Roy, E. Sivan-Loukianova & D.F. Eberl (2013) Cell-type—specific roles of Na+/K+ ATPase subunits in Drosophila auditory mechanosensation. Proc Natl Acad Sci (USA). 110:181-186. Issue cover art.

Bharadwaj, R., M. Roy, T. Ohyama, E. Sivan-Loukianova, T.E. Lloyd, M. Zlatic, D.F. Eberl & A.L. Kolodkin (2013) Cbl associated protein (CAP) regulates assembly and function of two tension-sensing structures in Drosophila. Development 140:627-638.

Eberl, D.F., & M.J. Kernan (2011) Recording sound-evoked potentials from the Drosophila antennal nerve. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols. 2011:prot5576.

Jacobs, J.S., X. Hong, & D.F. Eberl (2011) A “mesmer”izing new approach to site-directed mutagenesis in large transformation-ready constructs: Mutagenesis via Serial Small Mismatch Recombineering. Fly 5: 162-169.

Fritzsch, B., D.F. Eberl & K.W. Beisel (2010) The role of bHLH genes in ear development and evolution: Revisiting a 10 year old hypothesis. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 67: 3089-3099.

Kavlie, R.G., M.J. Kernan & D.F. Eberl (2010) Hearing in Drosophila requires TilB, a conserved protein associated with ciliary motility. Genetics 185: 177-188.

Sun, Y., L. Liu, Y. Ben-Shahar, J.S. Jacobs, D.F. Eberl & M.J. Welsh (2009) TRPA channels distinguish gravity sensing from hearing in Johnston’s organ. Proc Natl Acad Sci (USA). 106: 13606-13611.

Caldwell, J.C., & D.F. Eberl (2008) The role of the RING-finger protein Elfless in Drosophila spermatogenesis and apoptosis. Fly 2: 269-279.

Lee, E., E. Sivan-Loukianova, D.F. Eberl & M.J. Kernan (2008) An IFT-A protein is required to delimit functionally distinct zones in mechanosensory cilia. Current Biology 18: 1899-1906.

Todi, S.V., E. Sivan-Loukianova, J.S. Jacobs, D.P. Kiehart & D.F. Eberl (2008) Myosin VIIA, important for human auditory function, is necessary for Drosophila auditory organ development. Public Library of Science ONE 3: e2115.

Caldwell, J.C., S.K. Fineberg & D.F. Eberl (2007) reduced ocelli encodes the leucine rich repeat protein Pray For Elves in Drosophila melanogaster. Fly 1: 146-152.

Eberl, D.F., & G. Boekhoff-Falk (2007) Development of the Drosophila Johnston’s organ. Int. J. Dev. Biol 51: 679-687.

Ebacher, D.J.S., S.V. Todi, D.F. Eberl & G. Boekhoff-Falk (2007) cut mutant Drosophila auditory organs differentiate abnormally and degenerate. Fly 1: 86-94.

Williamson, R.E., K.N. Darrow, S. Michaud, J.S. Jacobs, M.C. Jones, D.F. Eberl, R.L. Maas, M.C. Liberman &C.C. Morton 2007. Methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP) in hearing: Gene disruption by chromosomal rearrangement in a hearing impaired individual and model organism analysis. Am. J. Med. Genet. Part A. 143A:1630-1639.

Tsujiuchi, S., E. Sivan-Loukianova, D.F. Eberl, Y. Kitagawa & T. Kadowaki 2007. Dynamic range compression in the honey bee auditory system toward waggle dance sounds. PLoS—ONE 2: e234.

Sivan-Loukianova, E., & D.F. Eberl 2005. Synaptic ultrastructure of Drosophila Johnston\'s organ axon terminals as revealed by an enhancer trap. J. Comp. Neurol. 491: 46-55.

Todi, S.V., J.D. Franke, D.P. Kiehart & D.F. Eberl 2005. Myosin VIIA defects, which underlie the Usher 1B Syndrome in humans, lead to deafness in Drosophila. Curr. Biol. 15: 862-868.

Prakash, S., J.C. Caldwell, D.F. Eberl & T.R. Clandinin 2005. Drosophila N-cadherin mediates an attractive interaction between photoreceptor axons and their targets. Nature Neurosci. 8: 443-450.

Todi, S.V., Y. Sharma, & D.F. Eberl 2004. Anatomical and molecular design of the Drosophila antenna as a flagellar auditory organ. Microsc. Res. Tech. 63: 388-399.

Caldwell, J.C., M.M. Miller, S. Wing, D.R. Soll & D.F. Eberl 2003. Dynamic analysis of larval locomotion in Drosophila chordotonal organ mutants. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA). 100: 16053-16058.

Sarpal, R., S.V. Todi, E. Sivan-Loukianova, S. Shirolikar, N. Subramanyan, E.C. Raff, J.W. Erickson, K. Ray & D.F. Eberl 2003. The Drosophila kinesin associated protein (DmKAP) interacts with the Kinesin II motor subunit Klp64D to assemble chordotonal organ sensory cilia but not sperm tails. Curr. Biol. 13: 1687-1696.

Dong, P.D.S., S.V. Todi, D.F. Eberl, G. Boekhoff-Falk 2003. A Drosophila model for Townes-Brocks Syndrome: spalt/spalt-related mutants exhibit hearing, appendage, and genital defects. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA) 100: 10293-10298.

Tauber, E., & D.F. Eberl 2003. Acoustic communication in Drosophila. Behav. Proc. 64: 197-210.

Caldwell, J.C. & D.F. Eberl 2002. Towards a molecular understanding of Drosophila hearing. J. Neurobiol. 53:172-189.

Sharma, Y., U. Cheung, E.W. Larsen, & D.F. Eberl 2002. pPTGAL, a convenient Gal4 P-element vector for testing expression of enhancer fragments in Drosophila. Genesis 34:115-118.

Tauber, E., & D.F. Eberl 2002. The effect of male competition on the courtship song of Drosophila melanogaster. J. Insect Behav. 15:109-120.

Tauber, E., & D.F. Eberl 2001. Song production in auditory mutants of Drosophila: the role of sensory feedback. J. Comp. Physiol. A. 187:341-348.

Eberl, D.F., R.W. Hardy & M.J. Kernan 2000. Genetically similar transduction mechanisms for touch and hearing in Drosophila. J. Neurosci. 20: 5981-5988.

Eberl, D.F. 1999. Feeling the vibes: chordotonal mechanisms in insect hearing. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 9:389-393.

Eberl, D.F., D. Ren, G. Feng, L.J. Lorenz, D. Van Vactor & L.M. Hall 1998. Genetic and developmental characterization of Dmca1D, a calcium channel alpha1 subunit in Drosophila melanogaster. Genetics 148:1159-1169.

Eberl, D.F., G.M. Duyk, & N. Perrimon 1997. A genetic screen for mutations that disrupt an auditory response in Drosophila melanogaster. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94:14837-14842.