Maurice Kernan

Maurice Kernan

Associate Professor
PhD, University of Wisconsin

Office Phone: (631) 632-9964
Lab Phone: (631) 632-9182
Fax: (631) 632-6661

Centers for Molecular Medicine
(CMM) Room 447



Maurice Kernan attended the University of Dublin and received a B.A. in Genetics in 1984. He went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin in 1990. He then spent three years as a Research Associate at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, San Diego. He came to Stony Brook University in 1995 where he is currently Associate Professor of Neurobiology & Behavior. He has served as the Director of the HHMI summer undergraduate research program since 2007.

Research Interests/Expertise

Our research combines Drosophila genetics, molecular biology and electrophysiology to investigate the cellular and molecular basis for the mechanical senses: touch, hearing and proprioception.  We focus on mechanosensory signaling in ciliated sensory neurons and in sperm flagella, using genetics to discover their molecular working parts, in particular the mechanically-activated ion channels that convert touch and sound into electrical receptor potentials.  Flies are ideal for getting to grips with mechanosensation: in addition to their powerful genetics, they bear thousands of mechanosensory bristles, each innervated by a single neuron, with striking physiological similarities to the sensory cells in the human ear.   We begin with behavioral mutants that are touch-insensitive, uncoordinated and/or deaf. Signal-transducing proteins that we have discovered include an extracellular protein that links neuronal sensory endings to bristles, and the first sound-transducing channels to be identified in any organism.

The neuronal sensory ending is a modified cilium, a cell-surface compartment with its own signaling and transport systems. The cilium/basal body/centriole complex is found throughout the eukaryotes; primary cilia on human cells, long seen as vestigial, have now been implicated in developmental signaling and in diseases such as polycystic kidney disease. 

  • Publications
  • Laboratory Personnel
    • S. Yorozu, A. Wong, B.J. Fischer, H. Dankert, M.J. Kernan, A. Kamikouchi, K. Ito and D.J. Anderson (2009). Distinct sensory representations of wind and near-field sound in the Drosophila brain. In press, Nature.
    • E. Lee, E. Sivan-Loukianova, D.F. Eberl and M.J. Kernan. (2008) An IFT-A protein is required to delimit functionally distinct zones in mechanosensory cilia. Current Biology18 1899-906.
    • A.E. Coluccio, R. Rodriguez, M. Kernan and A. M. Neiman (2008). The yeast spore wall enables spores to survive passage through the digestive tract of Drosophila. PLoS ONE , 3 (8):e2873.
    • M. J. Kernan (2007) Mechanotransduction and auditory transduction in Drosophila.  Pflugers Arch - Eur. J. Physiol.  454, 703-20.
    • S. L. Elliott, C. F. Cullen, N. Wrobel, M. J. Kernan, H. Ohkura (2005). EB1 is essential during Drosophila development and plays a crucial role in the integrity of chordotonal mechanosensory organs. Molecular Biology of the Cell 16 891-901. (PubMed)
    • M.B. Goodman, E.A. Lumpkin, A. Ricci, W.D. Tracey, M. Kernan, T. Nicolson (2004). Molecules and mechanisms of mechanotransduction. Journal of Neuroscience 24, 9220-2. (PubMed)
    • Z. Gong, W. Son, Y. D. Chung, J. Kim, D. W. Shin, C.A. McClung, Y.Lee, H. W. Lee, D-J. Chang, B-K. Kaang, H. Cho, U. Oh, J. Hirsh, M. J. Kernan, C. Kim (2004). Two interdependent TRPV channel subunits, Inactive and Nanchung, mediate hearing in Drosophila. Journal of Neuroscience. 24, 9059-66. (PubMed)
    • J. D. Baker, S. Adhikarakunnathu, & M. J. Kernan (2004). Mechanosensory-defective, male-sterile unc mutants identify a novel coiled-coil protein required for ciliogenesis in Drosophila. Development, 131, 3411-3422. (PubMed)
    • Martinez-Campos M, R. Basto R, J. Baker J, M. Kernan M, J.W. Raff (2004). The Drosophila pericentrin-like protein is essential for cilia/flagella function, but appears to be dispensable for mitosis. Journal of Cell Biology 165, 673-83. (PubMed)
    • T.J. Watnick, Y. Jin, E. Matunis, M.J. Kernan, C. Montell (2003). A flagellar polycystin-2 homolog required for male fertility in Drosophila. Current Biology, 13 2179-2184. (PubMed)
    • Y-G. Han, H. Kwok, & M. J. Kernan (2003). Intraflagellar transport is required to differentiate sensory cilia but not sperm in Drosophila. Current Biology, 13, 1679 – 1686. (PubMed)
    • J. Kim, Y. D. Chung, D. Park, S. K. Choi, D. W. Shin, H. Soh, H. W. Lee, W. Son, J. Yim, C-S. Park, M. J. Kernan, & C. Kim (2003). A TRPV family ion channel required for hearing in Drosophila. Nature 424, 81-4. (PubMed)
    • R. Dubruille, A. Laurençon, C. Vandaele, E. Shishido, M. Coulon-Bublex, P. Swoboda, P. Couble, M. Kernan, B. Durand (2002). Drosophila regulatory factor X is necessary for ciliated neuron differentiation. Development, 129 (23): 5487-5498. (PubMed)
    • Y.D. Chung, J. Zhu, Y-G. Han, M. J. Kernan (2001). nompA encodes a PNS-specific ZP-domain protein required to connect mechanosensory dendrites to sensory structures. Neuron 29, 415-428. (PubMed)
    • D. F. Eberl, R.W. Hardy M. J. Kernan (2000). Genetically related transduction mechanisms for hearing and touch in Drosophila. Journal of Neuroscience 20 (16) 5981-5988. (PubMed)
  • James Baker - Research Scientist
  • Shao-Kuei Huang - Graduate Student (Neuroscience)
  • Nan Wang - Undergraduate