Spermatogenesis mutants in C.elegans nematodes

Hello everyone,

I’m André Renaldo, a sophomore biology major. This is my first summer research and I’m pretty excited to be working in the lab. I joined Dr. Shakes’ C. elegans research lab this past semester. We work with these worms since they serve as a convenient organism for cellular studies; they’re easy to handle, they reproduce quickly and one can easily observable a temporal progression in the gonad, where germ cells start undifferentiated and undergo a great deal of genetic regulation to develop into sperm or oocyte. The cellular mechanisms at work here are very conserved through evolution and can certainly have implications into the areas of human medicine and disease treatment.

An effective way to look at a gene’s function is to observe what happens when it is not present, mutated. During this summer, I will study two mutants: spe-44 and rrf-3. SPE-44 encodes a transcription factor protein that will turn on other sperm-specific genes along the pathway. When absent, the developing spermatocytes fail to form sperm-specific structures and cannot divide properly. Conversely, RRF-3 is a gene that destroys the message (mRNA) from other genes. In the mutant, some genes are never properly regulated, ultimately leading to dysfunctional sperm. Using a variety of cellular techniques, such as antibodies against cellular markers and immunofluorescence microscopy, I will be able to determine the structure of these defective organisms and compare them to the normal phenotype, thus contributing to a greater picture of the mechanisms and cellular players that regulate spermatogenesis. Have a good rest of the semester!