Martín Koch

UC Santa Barbara
Microbiology (B.S.)

Transdifferentiation causing Programmed Cell Death in C. elegans

Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide. A way to understand how cells exhibiting initial cancerous characteristics are destroyed is by observing the programmed cell death (PCD) of a cell before it initiates tumorigenesis. The widely studied model organism Caenorhabditis elegans contains many homologous genes with humans and can therefore be studied and related to human cancers. Transdifferentiating specific cells in a particular worm strain (JR3642) by forcing the overexpression of the elt-7 transcription factor via heat shock puts stress on individual cells, possibly causing some to undergo PCD. To quantify the amount of transdifferentiate stress necessary to cause PCD, we heat-shocked JR3642 and quantified the post heat-shock corpses at different time points. When compared to a control, the difference in corpses found is not sufficient to provide conclusive results. The JR3642 strain was also crossed with strains containing fluorescent tags fused to the protein directly involved in corpse engulfment (coded by ced-1 gene), allowing for more accurate identification of cell corpses to provide more decisive results. We hypothesize that if the overexpression of the elt-7 transcription factor in C. elegans causes sufficient transdifferentiate stress within pharyngeal cells, then the cells will undergo programmed cell death. 

NIH UC Santa Barbara Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships UCSB California NanoSystems Institute MCDB