Apr 282014
 

Elaine Roe Award Dinner

My research project in the Curran laboratory focuses on a novel diet-dependent lifespan regulatory pathway that involves the mitochondrial metabolism gene alh-6, recently published by Drs. Pang and Curran. In C. elegans, the activity of ALH-6 can impact lifespan depending on what food the organism is currently ingesting, as mutants of alh-6 live either a normal or shorter life depending on their diet. We found that alh-6 mutants activate stress adaptation responses, but only during adult specific stages of C. elegans lifespan.  Through a mutagenesis screen, we found suppressors of these mutants that no longer activated this conserved stress response. These mutants are particularly exciting as they could possibly represent an animal with enhanced stress responses, an animal that no longer is poisoned by certain diets, or animals that can survive even in the absence of this normally essential stress pathway.  We are currently in the process of mapping the genetic locations of these suppressor mutations and further analyzing these mutants in order to provide a better and clearer understanding of this exciting new pathway. Because this pathway is exceptionally well conserved in humans, we are excited to apply our discoveries made in the worm to mammals.