Cilia are microtubule-based organelles that protrude from the cell surface of most eukaryotic cells. These complex organelles are responsible for a variety of key sensory and motility-based processes, including olfaction, light perception/vision, cellular signaling and fluid propulsion. Defects in ciliary genes have also been linked to several human genetic diseases. A variety of comparative genomics and proteomics approaches have indicated that numerous ciliary genes remain uncharacterized. Using comparative genomics, we identified a subset of evolutionary conserved ciliary genes that are likely involved in sensory perception exclusively. Using the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans as a model system, we are exploring the function of these genes in a subset of sensory neurons. Candidate genes were fluorescently tagged with green fluorescent protein (GFP), a technique that will allow for the in-vivo imaging of each protein in the nervous system of the worm. The fidelity of each construct was verified using restriction digestions and DNA sequencing. Transgenic worms containing these constructs were generated using microinjection. Preliminary results indicate that several of these genes are expressed exclusively in nematode ciliated sensory neurons. A number of phenotypic assays will be used with strains carrying mutations for these genes in future studies to determine the cellular function of these genes.
Level of Honors
magna cum laude
Elizabeth De Stasio and Brian Piasecki
O'Flaherty, Brendan M., "Exploring Cellular Antennae: Functional Genomics of Sensory Cilia in Caenorhabditis elegans" (2012). Lawrence University Honors Projects. Paper 10.