Mohamed Elaswad, a graduate student in the Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology Program, was awarded Best Cell Biology Poster at the International C. elegans Conference. Put on by the Genetics Society of America, the C. elegans Conference highlights research involving the Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode worm used frequently in scientific study as a model for human biology. Elaswad’s research focused on RNA binding proteins within C. elegans oocytes (eggs), and how regulating the packaging of these proteins is important for long lasting fertility.
The RNA binding proteins and RNA together can form structures found in eggs called ribonucleoprotein (RNP) granules. These granules can exist in different states, such as a diffused state and a condensed state. The movement between these phases is called phase transitions. Elaswad chose to study phase transitions in C. elegans because of their importance in maintaining the viability of eggs.
For this study, Elaswad examined whether the ERK enzyme influences the RNA binding proteins. In prior research, the ERK enzyme had been shown to promote phase transitions of RNA proteins into a condensed state. However, Elaswad’s research contradicts these findings, implying that ERK inhibits phase transitions into condensed states in C. elegans’ eggs.
Elaswad’s findings increase knowledge on molecular regulation of RNA binding protein phase transitions and improves understanding of egg phase transition regulation. A deeper understanding of egg regulation may lead to novel therapeutic interventions for specific fertility issues in humans.
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Story by ORGS intern Ellie Heron