The Drosophila ninaC gene encodes for two head-specific proteins of 132 kDa and 174 kDa. Their predicted amino acid sequences indicate that they may have myosin I and kinase properties. We have: (1) determined the cellular and subcellular distributions of the ninaC proteins in the Drosophila retina by electron microscopic immunocytochemistry with an antibody specific for epitopes shared by both proteins; (2) characterized the ultrastructure of the mutant phenotype. The proteins were detected only in the photoreceptor cells, but were detected in all classes of the compound eye photoreceptors. Within the photoreceptors, they were found in the rhabdomeral microvilli and the cytoplasm adjacent to the rhabdomeres. This distribution coincides with that shown previously for actin filaments. Immunolabelling of tissue from the ninaC P221 mutant, which lacks the 174 kDa protein, and two mutants whose rhabdomeres degenerate, suggests that the 132 kDa protein is present primarily in the cytoplasm adjacent to the rhabdomeres, and that the 174 kDa protein is concentrated in the rhabdomeres. Our ultrastructural analysis showed that the axial cytoskeleton of the rhabdomeral microvilli (which contains filamentous actin) was absent in both the null and P221 mutants. In the photoreceptor cell cytoplasm, the number of multivesicular bodies in the null mutant, but not the P221 mutant, was 3-fold greater in comparison with wild-type.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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