Discipline: Biological Sciences
Jiah Toms - Fisk University
Co-Author(s): Jennifer Quinde, Fisk University, Nashville, TN; Corey Roach, Fisk University, Nashville, TN; Cameron Bryant, Fisk University, Nashville, TN; Dr. Brian Nelms, Fisk University, Nashville, TN
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter within the central nervous system that is important for motor control, reward and pleasure, and learning. Problems in dopamine signaling are associated with human disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease, ADHD, Drug Addiction, Schizophrenia, and Depression. Parkinson’s disease causes dopamine deficiency, which results in muscular rigidity, slow imprecise movement, and irregular blood pressure. To study the molecular basis of dopamine neuron function and identify new molecules, we are studying the model organism C. elegans, which despite its simpler anatomy, still shares genetic conservation with humans. We are examining a list of 534 differentially expressed genes generated by comparing RNA-Seq data from isolated dopamine neurons and whole worms. As well as we are using different bioinformatics tools to find out what genes link to dopamine and human disorders. The purpose of this research is to determine the correlation between genes and dopamine neuron function in C. elegans to determine if candidate genes are related to human disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease, ADHD, Schizophrenia, depression, and drug addiction. The genes that relate to dopamine and human disorders can be tested in C. elegans to compare C. elegans with these genes to C. elegans without these genes. We have performed dopamine-dependent assays on mutant strains lacking individual candidate genes to test their function. Some genes that are required in C. elegans dopamine neurons have a relationship to human functions, including Complexin 1, Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), GTPase-activating protein SynGAP, and Ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase (UCHL) 28 isoform X12. We have particularly focused on the role of complexin-1, finding it to be required in the worm for reduced dopamine levels. From this research, we hope to gain more insight into the relationship between dopamine neuron genes and human disorders.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): NSF HBCU-UP BD2k
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Brain Nelms, email@example.com
Role: I conducted the bioinformatics and performed dopamine-dependent assays on mutant strains lacking individual candidate genes to test their function.