Michael J. Senter-Zapata, Harvard College ‘14
Dustin Updike, Ph.D., Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Salisbury Cove, Maine


P granules are cytoplasmic organelles found in all animal germ cells that are composed of both RNA and protein and appear to confer totipotent and immortal properties to the host cell. Germ cells lacking P granules are sterile, whereas somatic cells expressing P granules seem to exhibit an extended life span and a greater ability to combat stress. We sought to uncover novel genetic mutations in C. elegans that might cause P granule expression outside of the germ line by conducting a standard EMS forward mutagenesis screen. By screening 2,000 haploid genomes, we discovered 8 mutant strains that exhibited 3 distinct ectopic P-granule phenotypes. We used RNAi to knockdown lin-15a in our mutants to determine if the genes causing their respective phenotypes were synMuvB genes. RNAi results indicate that, while some phenotypes may be caused by mutations in the synMuvB genes, many are not synMuvBs and may represent mutations in novel genes. Whole genome sequencing analysis will be performed to determine the identity of these P granule regulators.

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