Coleen T. Murphy, Ph.D.James A. Elkins, Jr. Professor in the Life Sciences, Princeton University
Presidential Lectures are free public colloquia centered on four main themes: Biology, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Neuroscience and Autism Science. These curated, high-level scientific talks feature leading scientists and mathematicians and are intended to foster discourse and drive discovery among the broader NYC-area research community. We invite those interested in the topic to join us for this weekly lecture series.
Our experiences influence our decisions, but can they influence our descendants’ decisions? Animals must distinguish pathogens from nutritious food sources; this is particularly challenging for C. elegans, which must distinguish bacterial food from pathogens among the many bacteria in its environment.
In this lecture, Coleen Murphy will present how she and her colleagues found that a single exposure to purified small RNAs isolated from pathogenic Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA14) is sufficient to induce pathogen avoidance in the treated worms and four subsequent generations of progeny. The RNA interference (RNAi) and PIWI-interacting RNA (piRNA) pathways, the germline and the ASI neuron are all required for avoidance behavior induced by bacterial small RNAs and for the transgenerational inheritance of this behavior. A single P. aeruginosa non-coding RNA, P11, is necessary and sufficient to convey learned avoidance of PA14, and its C. elegans target, maco-1, is required for avoidance. Their results suggest that this non-coding-RNA-dependent mechanism evolved to survey the microbial environment of the worm, use this information to make appropriate behavioral decisions and pass this information on to its progeny.
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