Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program

Biology

Advisor

Michael Tibbetts

Abstract/Artist's Statement

In the nervous system of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, there are four cephalic sheath glia (CEPsh glia), which are bipolar cells that ensheath the sensory dendrites of CEP neurons and also associate with the nerve ring (the worm analog of a brain) by sending sheet-like processes that terminate at specific synaptic connections. Previous investigations indicate that animals in which the CEPsh glia were genetically ablated during the first larval stage display various locomotor behavioral defects (Katz et al., unpublished), indicating the importance of glial cells for proper neuronal activity in a living organism. To identify molecular interactions between the CEPsh glia and the neurons by which locomotor behavior is regulated, a suppressor screen on CEPsh glia-ablated worms was performed using ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) and transposon-mediated insertional mutagenesis, selecting for animals with improved locomotion. About 60 000 EMS-mutagenized worms were screened in a locomotion assay, and 31 lines with significantly improved locomotion compared to the glia-ablated line were obtained. Following detailed analysis of specific locomotor characteristics, 7 lines were found to exhibit pronounced improvement in the parameters of locomotion, speed, pausing and exploratory pattern. Mapping the affected genes that underlie these mutants may shed light on the molecular interactions between glia and other cells that together regulate neuronal activity.

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