Title

Development of an Assay to Detect Degenerative Dopaminergic Neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans

Presenter Information

Jacob Darley
Maria Niemuth

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC Ballroom C/D

Start Date

16-5-2013

End Date

16-5-2013

Abstract

Parkinson’s disease (PK) is a disruption of motor function caused by loss of dopamine neurons. PK can be caused by environmental and genetic factors. One protein known to contribute to PK is the protein α-synuclein found in dopamine neurons. Over expression or mutations in α-synuclein can lead to PK. The soil nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), has been developed as a model for PK by using a transgenically modified strain, which overexpresses the human α-synuclein protein. In this strain, the dopamine neurons, which have been labeled with a green fluorescent protein, were observed by fluorescent microscopy to degenerate after nine days of development. We have discovered that the transgenic strain expresses a locomotory behavioral defect that is indicative of deficient dopamine signaling at day three of development. When wild-type (normal) nematodes encounter their food, which is a bacterial lawn, they slow their locomotory speed. However, the transgenic strain does not exhibit the prototypical slowing behavior that stems from the excitation of the dopamine neurons. This defect was determined by utilizing an automated tracking system to quantify speed of locomotion on and off food. We can extrapolate that this behavior is correlated to nematodes that exhibit degenerative dopamine neurons, as this same behavioral defect is observed in cat-2 mutants that do not generate dopamine. In future studies, we will utilize this assay to examine the effects of environmental stressors on these neurons and their relation to PK.

Poster Number

36

Faculty Mentor(s)

Lucinda Carnell, Eric Foss

Additional Mentoring Department

Biological Sciences

Additional Mentoring Department

Biological Sciences

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May 16th, 8:20 AM May 16th, 10:50 AM

Development of an Assay to Detect Degenerative Dopaminergic Neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans

SURC Ballroom C/D

Parkinson’s disease (PK) is a disruption of motor function caused by loss of dopamine neurons. PK can be caused by environmental and genetic factors. One protein known to contribute to PK is the protein α-synuclein found in dopamine neurons. Over expression or mutations in α-synuclein can lead to PK. The soil nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), has been developed as a model for PK by using a transgenically modified strain, which overexpresses the human α-synuclein protein. In this strain, the dopamine neurons, which have been labeled with a green fluorescent protein, were observed by fluorescent microscopy to degenerate after nine days of development. We have discovered that the transgenic strain expresses a locomotory behavioral defect that is indicative of deficient dopamine signaling at day three of development. When wild-type (normal) nematodes encounter their food, which is a bacterial lawn, they slow their locomotory speed. However, the transgenic strain does not exhibit the prototypical slowing behavior that stems from the excitation of the dopamine neurons. This defect was determined by utilizing an automated tracking system to quantify speed of locomotion on and off food. We can extrapolate that this behavior is correlated to nematodes that exhibit degenerative dopamine neurons, as this same behavioral defect is observed in cat-2 mutants that do not generate dopamine. In future studies, we will utilize this assay to examine the effects of environmental stressors on these neurons and their relation to PK.