Cunningham Lab

Christopher L. Cunningham, PhD

Christopher L. Cunningham, PhD

Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology

E-mail Website


The Cunningham Lab is interested in understanding the neural and sensory biology of the vertebrate auditory system. Many unique and highly specialized proteins with exquisitely precise subcellular localizations are critical for each step of sound processing. Hearing loss is the most common sensory deficit, and multiple forms of hearing loss involve aberrant proteostasis—improper assembly, trafficking, and/or regulation of key auditory proteins. We utilize mouse models of human deafness for our experiments. The similarities between the rodent and human auditory systems allow for a panoply of experimental manipulations that aim to uncover basic biological mechanisms and translational insights relevant for human health. The lab utilizes cutting-edge techniques including the generation and analysis of novel genetic mouse models combined with biochemistry, molecular biology, histology, viral vectors and high-resolution fluorescent microscopic imaging. Ultimately, we hope to utilize our findings toward the development of new therapies for hearing loss and deafness. To this end, we are very interested in developing gene therapy strategies that can treat hearing loss.


BS Biology Brigham Young University-Idaho 2008
PhD Neuroscience University of California, Davis 2013
Postdoctoral Fellowship Neuroscience The Scripps Research Institute/Johns Hopkins University 2013-2021

Positions Held

Assistant Professor University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine 2021-

Honors and awards

2005-08 BYU-Idaho Academic Full-Tuition Scholarship, Brigham Young University—Idaho
2006 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
2007 Student Research Fund Grant, Brigham Young University—Idaho
2010 UC Davis Graduate Student Association Travel Award
2011 UC Davis Graduate Student Association Travel Award
2011 Society for Neuroscience IBRO World Congress Travel Award
2011 UC Davis Graduate Studies Travel Award
2012 Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Nominee
2012 Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Developmental Neurobiology Course Fellowship
2010-13 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow
2013-15 California Institute of Regenerative Medicine Postdoctoral Fellow
2016-19 National Institutes of Health NIDCD F32 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Fellow (Grant Number F32DC015724), Contribution of COMT2 to auditory processing in mammalian sensory hair cells.
2020 Association for Research in Otolaryngology 2020 MidWinter Meeting Travel Award
2020-2023 National Institutes of Health NIDCD R21 (Grant Number R21DC019195), Mechanisms of protein transport and assembly in hair cells.

Selected Publications

X Liang*, X Qiu*, G Dionne*, Christopher L. Cunningham, ML Pucak, G Peng, Y Kim, A Lauer, L Shapiro, U Müller. 2021. Cib2 and Cib3 are auxiliary subunits of the mechanotransduction channel of hair cells. Neuron. Jun 4. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2021.05.007. *These authors contributed equally to this work.

Christopher L. Cunningham*, X Qiu*, Z Wu, B Zhao, G Peng, Y Kim, A Lauer, U Müller. 2020. TMIE defines pore and gating properties of the mechanotransduction channel of mammalian cochlear hair cells. Neuron. Apr 16. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.03.033. *These authors contributed equally to this work.

Christopher L. Cunningham*, Ulrich Müller*. 2019. Molecular structure of the hair cell mechanoelectrical transduction complex. CSHL Perspectives in Medicine. 2019 May 1;9(5). pii: a033167. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a033167. *Co-corresponding authors.

Christopher L. Cunningham, Z Wu, A Jafari, B Zhao, K Schrode, S Harkins-Perry, A Lauer, U Müller. 2017. The Murine Catecholamine Methyltransferase mTOMT is Essential for Mechanotransduction by Cochlear Hair Cells. eLife. May 15; 6. doi: 10.7554/eLife.24318.

Z Wu, N Grillet, B Zhao, Christopher Cunningham, S Harkins-Perry, B Coste, S Ranade, N Zebarjadi, M Beurg, R Fettiplace, A Patapoutian, U Müller. 2016. Mechanosensory hair cells express two molecularly distinct mechanotransduction channels. Nature Neuroscience. Nov 28. doi:10.1038/nn.4449.

C Gil-Sanz, A Espinosa, SP Fregoso, KK Bluske, Christopher L. Cunningham, I Martinez-Garay, SJ Franco, U Müller. 2015. Lineage tracing using Cux2-Cre and Cux2Cre-ERT2 mice. Neuron. 86(4):1091-9.

Christopher L. Cunningham, V Martinez-Cerdeno, SC Noctor. 2013. Microglia regulate the number of precursor cells in the developing cerebral cortex. Journal of Neuroscience. Mar 6;33(10):4216-33. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3441-12.2013.

More publications

Lab Members

  • Alicia Frank, MPPM

    Laboratory Manager