Identifying the Cause of Exploding Worms

Using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), we have found the loss of important genes in stress-response pathways can cause a phenomenon called age-related vulval integrity defects (Avid).  Worms with Avid show a small protrusion near their vulva that can eventually lead to expulsion of the intestine and premature death.  While many labs have noted this phenotype, it is unknown if Avid is a natural part of C. elegans aging or if genetic and environmental factors induce this phenotype.  Because of this, there is confusion as to whether worms with Avid should be censored in aging experiments.  Our initial work has identified several conditions and genetic pathways important for Avid, including temperature, food availability, the hypoxic response pathway, the oxidative stress response pathway, and the protein assembly pathway.We have also identified that the reproductive period of the C. elegans lifecycle is influential on Avid frequency, despite the phenotype occurring post-reproductively. The goal of our project is to determine the mechanism of Avid and whether it is part of normal worm aging and to suggest Avid as a possible marker for nematode healthspan.

People: Scott Leiser, Melissa Primitivo, Ali Jafari, George Sutphin