We use C. elegans to identify and characterize new proteins that play a role in perception of the environment, focussing on the fomation and function of cilia and the molecular mechanisms of the response of C. elegans to NaCl.
Accurate detection of cues in the environment is essential for the survival of all organisms. The same holds true for all cells. Based on signals from their environment and internal cues, cells decide to divide, migrate, differentiate, live or die. Each cell or cell type expresses a particular set of receptors and channels, making them sensitive to particular cues. Many receptors and channels are located on the plasma membrane of the cell, but some localize to a specialized sensory organelle, the primary cilium. Primary cilia are present on nearly all cells of the vertebrate body and extend from the cell’s surface. They harbor specific receptors, channels and other signaling molecules depending on the cell type. Given the large number of signaling routes that use cilia and their presence on almost all vertebrate cells, it’s not surprising that cilia dysfunction is the cause of many diseases called ciliopathies.
We are interested in the interplay between cilia and signaling. On the one hand, we would like to understand how cilia are build and how their length and morphology are regulated, among others by environmental signals. Using genetic screens, molecular genetics and imaging we try to identify and characterize new proteins that play a role in these processes. On the other hand, we study cilium function, how cilia form a platform for detection of cues and signaling and regulate the sensory capacity of cells and organisms. Here, we focus on the response of C. elegans to NaCl, both in naive animals and in a NaCl learning assay, gustatory plasticity. Using genetic screens, behavioral assays, calcium imaging and molecular cell biology, we try to identify and characterize new proteins that regulate the response of C. elegans to NaCl, and cilia play a role in this process
Start Lab in 1999