Scholar: Dylan Rahe
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Patricia Berninsone
Research Topic: C. Elegans as a Model to Study the Nematode Surface Coat: Isolation and Identification of Excreted/Secreted Proteins
Abstract: Nematodes, more commonly known as roundworms, are an incredibly diverse phylum, with more than 80,000 known species, of which over 18% are known to be parasitic in plants and animals. Parasitic nematodes are the causative agents of widespread and devastating plant and animal diseases, resulting in an estimated 5% global crop loss (root-knot nematodes, genus Meloidogyne) and the infection of more than 1.3 million humans worldwide (hookworms, genera Necator and Ancylostoma). The ability of these parasites to exist in the hostile host environment is dependent on their ability to trick or evade the host immune system.
It has been proposed that the outermost layer of these organisms, known as the surface coat, plays a significant role in the process of immune system evasion. Hypothesized to consist of a thin layer of excreted/secreted products (ESP), this layer has been little studied due to its dynamic nature. One free-living species of nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, has been studied extensively since the mid-1970's, providing a rich collection of information regarding the biology of this and other related nematodes. Despite this, little is known about its surface coat. C. elegans is related to a number of plant and animal parasitic nematodes; by studying the ESP of C. elegans, insight can be gained into both the constitutive nature of the surface coat, as well as the biochemical pathways important in its production and expression.
This research project explores an approach to isolate the ESP, which allows a proteomic analysis of its components. The strategy developed will also enable an unbiased proteomic analysis of the ESP from mutants with abnormal surface morphology. This will offer insight into the genetic basis of surface coat synthesis and modification. Among these, analysis of srf-3 mutants is currently underway.
Earned Baccalaureate Degree: Spring 2010
Doctoral Program Update: Enrolled in Biology Ph.D. Program, Columbia University