As part of a study of cytoskeletal proteins involved in Drosophila embryonic development, we have undertaken the molecular analysis of a 140-kD ATP-sensitive actin-binding protein (Miller, K. G., C. M. Field, and B. M. Alberts. 1989. J. Cell Biol. 109:2963-2975). Analysis of cDNA clones encoding this protein revealed that it represents a new class of unconventional myosin heavy chains. The amino-terminal two thirds of the protein comprises a head domain that is 29-33% identical (60-65% similar) to other myosin heads, and contains ATP-binding, actin-binding and calmodulin/myosin light chain-binding motifs. The carboxy-terminal tail has no significant similarity to other known myosin tails, but does contain a approximately 100-amino acid region that is predicted to form an alpha-helical coiled-coil. Since the unique gene that encodes this protein maps to the polytene map position 95F, we have named the new gene Drosophila 95F myosin heavy chain (95F MHC). The expression profile of the 95F MHC gene is complex. Examination of multiple cDNAs reveals that transcripts are alternatively spliced and encode at least three protein isoforms; in addition, a fourth isoform is detected on Western blots. Developmental Northern and Western blots show that transcripts and protein are present throughout the life cycle, with peak expression occurring during mid-embryogenesis and adulthood. Immunolocalization in early embryos demonstrates that the protein is primarily located in a punctate pattern throughout the peripheral cytoplasm. Most cells maintain a low level of protein expression throughout embryogenesis, but specific tissues appear to contain more protein. We speculate that the 95F MHC protein isoforms are involved in multiple dynamic processes during Drosophila development.

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