Systematic Identification of Pathways Contributing Diabetes and Obesity in Human Patients: C. Elegans RNAi Screen

Investigator: Kaveh Ashrafi, PhD
Sponsor: American Diabetes Association, Inc.

Location(s): United States


As in all living organisms, survival in C. elegans requires adequate management of energy supplies. Genetic screens have revealed thatC. elegans fat regulation involves a complex network of genes with known or likely functions in food sensation, neuroendocrine signaling, uptake, transport, storage and utilization of fats. Core fat and sugar metabolic pathways are conserved in C. elegans. Flux through these pathways is modulated by cellular energy sensors that operate via transcriptional and translational regulatory mechanisms. In turn, neuroendocrine mechanisms couple sensory and metabolic pathways while neuromodulatory pathways influence both metabolic and food seeking/consumption pathways. The shared ancestry of C. elegans and mammalian fat regulatory pathways extends to developmental programs that underlie fat storage capacity, despite lack of dedicated adipocytes, and genes whose human homologs are implicated in obesity. This suggests that many of the newly identified C. elegans fat regulatory pathways play similar roles in mammals. C. elegans is ideally suited for the integrated study of mechanisms that operate in multiple tissues and elicit feedback responses that affect processes as diverse as metabolism and behavior.