The mouse represents an excellent model system for the study of genetic deafness in humans. Many mouse deafness mutants have been identified and the anatomy of the mouse and human ear is similar. Here we report the use of a positional cloning approach to identify the gene encoded by the mouse recessive deafness mutation, Snell's waltzer (sv). We show that sv encodes an unconventional myosin heavy chain, myosin VI, which is expressed within the sensory hair cells of the inner ear, and appears to be required for maintaining their structural integrity. The requirement for myosin VI in hearing makes this gene an excellent candidate for a human deafness disorder.
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