Abstract: Series 107, Lecture 6

The Harvey Lectures Series 107 (2011—2012)

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Lecture #6: Thursday, April 19, 2012 — Time and Location

Development and Sensory Transduction in the C Elegans Touch Receptor Neurons

Martin Chalfie, PhD

Martin  Chalfie, PhD

William R Kenan Jr Professor
Department of Biological Sciences

Columbia University

New York, New York

Dr Chalfie's Website

The senses that allow us to touch, hear, detect acceleration, and determine body position all respond to mechanical signals. The proteins underlying these mechanical senses, however, remain a mystery. We have used genetics, particularly the ability to find mutants that are insensitive to gentle touch in Caenorhabditis elegans, to identify genes encoding proteins needed for mechanosensation in the animal’s touch receptor neurons. Some genes are needed for the differentiation of the touch receptor neurons. Others are needed for the function of these cells. Proteins encoded by several of these later genes form a membrane sensor for touch, the first such transducer to be found in any mechanosensory neuron. The sensor contains at least six proteins and is affected by the lipid composition of the associated membrane. Recently, using feeding RNAi specific to nerve cells, we have identified several new genes whose products appear to modulate touch sensitivity.

Lecture Sponsor: Carl Zeiss MicroImaging, LLC

Carl Zeiss MicroImaging, LLC