The ninaC gene encodes two retinal specific proteins (p132 and p174) consisting of a protein kinase domain joined to a domain homologous to the head region of the myosin heavy chain. The putative myosin domain of p174 is linked at the COOH-terminus to a tail which has some similarities to myosin-I tails. In the current report, we demonstrate that the ninaC mutation results in light- and age-dependent retinal degeneration. We also show that ninaC flies display an electrophysiological phenotype before any discernible retinal degeneration indicating that the electrophysiological defect is the primary effect of the mutation. This suggests that ninaC has a role in phototransduction and that the retinal degeneration is a secondary effect resulting from the defect in phototransduction. To examine the requirements for the individual ninaC isoforms, mutant alleles were generated which express only p132 or p174. Elimination of p174 resulted in a ninaC phenotype as strong as the null allele; however, elimination of p132 had little if any effect. As a first step in investigating the basis for the difference in requirements for p174 and p132 we performed immuno-localization at the electron microscopic level and found that the two isoforms display different subcellular distributions in the photoreceptor cells. The p132 protein is restricted primarily to the cytoplasm and p174 to the rhabdomeres, the microvillar structure which is the site of action of many of the steps in phototransduction. This suggests that the p174 myosin-I type tail is the domain responsible for association with the rhabdomeres and that the substrate for the p174 putative kinase may be a rhabdomeric protein important in photo-transduction.

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