Cheryl Chen

Date of Award


First Advisor

Sue Mechanic-Meyers

Second Advisor

Paul Naamon


The p53 is a tumor suppressor protein whose mutation is found in 50% of all human tumors. This thesis strives understand p53 by knocking down its nematode ortholog cep-­1 and observing the result. The protein knockdown is done using the RNA interference technique, in which the gene producing the protein is silenced. This powerful loss-­‐of-­‐function technique is often used to determine the function and pathway of a gene. The organism used for the experiment is the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a microscopic worm that lives in the soil and decaying plant and feeds on bacteria.

The p53 pathway starts when a stress signal is relayed into the cell, and the p53 protein binds to DNA which signals to molecules crucial to cell development to stop cell division. The protein then either rectifies or holds the cell in stasis permanently. Alternatively, if no solution can be found, the protein is an important factor in cueing cell suicide. Subsequently, it is the ability to control cellular activity that also gave p53 the power to grant longevity, a characteristic that is most notable in the knockdown of cep-­1 in C. elegans. This thesis will explore the longevity observed in the cep-­1 deficient C. elegans and, using literature, attempt to understand the relationship between cancer and longevity.