Investigating OSM-9’s Role in C. elegans Learning and Memory

By: Kevin Daigle, Fatema Saifuddin, Julia Miller

Department: Cellular & Molecular Biology

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Erica L. Sanchez, Dr. Noelle L'Etoile (UCSF)

Neurodegenerative diseases affect many people worldwide, yet many of the molecular processes attributing to memory formation continue to be understudied. Knowing the key players required for normal learning and memory function reveals what oddities may be the cause of neurological problems. OSM-9 is a TRPV channel protein found in several neurons within the transparent nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, and is homologous to mammals, including humans. Here we hypothesize that OSM-9 plays an important role in creating sleep-dependent long-term memories in C. elegans. I will test this hypothesis by conducting a behavioral assay that trains both wild type C. elegans with OSM-9 and mutant C. elegans lacking the OSM-9 protein. These two groups of C. elegans will then be assessed to see if they are able to learn and if they keep long-term memory. Whole brain imaging will also be done on the different C. elegans strains before and after training to visualize changes in neuronal firing patterns. The wild type strain is expected to keep long-term memory and the mutant strain lacking OSM-9 is not expected to keep long-term memory. The implications of these results will uncover whether OSM-9 is a critical protein involved in forming long-term memory. If so, these findings will set the stage for therapeutic targets to combat neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease.