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BBE Seminar - Coleen Murphy | Tuesday December 5, 2023 at 12 pm

Tuesday, December 5, 2023
12:00pm to 1:00pm
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Date: Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Reception: 11:30 am

Time: 12 pm

Location: Broad 100


Coleen Murphy, Professor of Molecular Biology and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics
Director, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics; Director of Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for Aging Research
James A. Elkins, Jr. Professor in the Life Sciences

Faculty Host: Paul Sternberg

Title: Long-term memory and Transgenerational Inheritance of Learned Behavior in C. elegans"


Caenorhabditis elegans exhibits multiple forms of memory - it must find and remember food cues, and it must distinguish pathogens from nutritious food sources among the many bacteria to which it is exposed in its environment. We 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 in 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 behaviour induced by bacterial small RNAs, and for the transgenerational inheritance of this behavior. A single P. aeruginosa non-coding RNA, P11, is both necessary and sufficient to convey learned avoidance of PA14, and its C. elegans target, maco-1, is required for avoidance. Finally, we found that the Cer1 retrotransposon is necessary not only for intracellular communication, but also for inter-individual horizontal transfer of learned information. Our 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, using a surprising retrotransposon-based mechanism. We also have found conserved mechanisms of olfactory memory that can can be stimulated to maintain function with age in both old worms and in old mice.

For more information, please contact Tish Cheek by phone at 626-395-4952 or by email at [email protected].