Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Roundworms Provide Clues To Human Kidney Disease

Date:
September 29, 1999
Source:
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Summary:
There would seem to be little connection between roundworm reproduction and human kidney disease, yet HHMI investigators have found such a link.

September 23, 1999 — There would seem to be little connection between roundworm reproduction and human kidney disease, yet HHMI investigators have found such a link.

Paul Sternberg, an HHMI investigator at the California Institute of Technology, and colleague Maureen Barr had been studying the mating behavior of the tiny roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans, when they found that a gene crucial to roundworm mating strongly resembles a gene involved in polycystic kidney disease.

"We set out to study how genes control neurons that control behavior," Sternberg said. To understand how genes influence reproductive behaviors, Sternberg and Barr introduced mutations into the roundworm's genome and then looked for males that had difficulty mating.

Reproduction in C. elegans involves two sexes, males and hermaphrodites. Hermaphrodites are females that produce sperm, which the hermaphrodite worm can use to self-fertilize the first 300 or so eggs. After self-fertilizing the first batch of eggs, the hermaphrodite preferentially accepts sperm from males in hopes of producing a larger number of offspring. This unusual mating system makes males nonessential—which is convenient for molecular biologists because it allows them to mutate males without altering the viability of the test strain.

When a male roundworm encounters a hermaphrodite, he places his tail, which contains sensory structures, flush with the hermaphrodite's body and glides it along the length of her body until he locates the vulva. After observing mutant worms under a microscope for many hours, Barr noticed that some males glided right past the vulva. Closer observation revealed that many of these mutants did not respond to the hermaphrodites at all.

Genetic analysis of these mating-deficient worms revealed that they had a mutation in a gene Sternberg and Barr called lov-1, for location of vulva. They sought further confirmation of lov-1's importance in mating by injecting a healthy copy of the gene into mutant males. Mutant males who received the lov-1 gene mated normally. The researchers also found that only male sensory neurons vital to vulva location contained the protein encoded by lov-1, further verifying the protein's role in mating behavior.

Sternberg and Barr then compared the DNA sequence of lov-1 to gene sequences recorded in gene databases. As reported in the September 23, 1999, issue of the journal Nature, the closest match was PKD1, a gene involved in human polycystic kidney disease.

"The work is a surprise intersection of two different areas," Sternberg said. The agreement in the amino acid sequences of the two proteins suggests that the LOV-1 and PKD1 proteins encoded by these two genes might perform similar roles in worm and kidney cells. PKD1's function is still a mystery, although scientists do know that defective PKD1 can cause the formation of cysts in the kidneys, a potentially fatal condition affecting 12.5 million people worldwide.

If the LOV-1 protein is indeed similar in function to PKD1, then male roundworms could be useful for deducing the role that PKD1 plays in kidney disease. "At first glance it seems very odd that you have a gene that's acting in a neuron which is a very different cell type than those cells in the kidney," Barr said. But, she continued, if you look at what the gene is doing in the cell, regardless of cell type, you can learn about its function.

The tiny roundworms are easier and faster to work with than mammalian cells, and the entire sequence of the C. elegans genetic code is already known. "The advantage is that we can do a lot of experiments faster," Sternberg said. "It would be exciting to find more genes that work with lov-1 in the worm because those genes may also work together in the kidney."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "Roundworms Provide Clues To Human Kidney Disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 September 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990929021115.htm>.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute. (1999, September 29). Roundworms Provide Clues To Human Kidney Disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990929021115.htm
Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "Roundworms Provide Clues To Human Kidney Disease." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990929021115.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Reuters - US Online Video (July 28, 2014) Two American aid workers in Liberia test positive for Ebola while working to combat the deadliest outbreak of the virus ever. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins