The Most Proximal Oocyte and Future Directions

This summer, we have performed a comparative analysis of oocyte maturation in the nematode species C. elegans and R. sp. SB347. These studies have allowed us to gain insights on how this process differs between the two species. Specifically, this summer, we studied what role the protein FBF plays in oocyte maturation. We observed different patterns of FBF antibody staining within the gonad (see my previous post) and in the most proximal oocytes of the related nematode, R. sp. SB347, confirming results from previous studies (Lin et al. unpublished studies).

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Using Antibodies in Nematodes

As mentioned in my last blog post, we are performing a comparative study of maturing oocytes in the nematode species R. sp. SB 347 and C. elegans. To do so, we use immunofluorescence and microscopy techniques to observe protein presence and location in the developing oocytes. Our primary method of immunofluorescent staining is using antibodies to tag certain molecules. In the immune system, antibodies are used to tag foreign molecules for destruction. For instance, when a virus attacks the immune system, certain antibodies will recognize the foreign threat and mark it for destruction by the rest of the immune system. To do this, antibodies recognize and bind to a specific binding site on a foreign molecule.

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Characterizing Oocyte Maturation in Nematodes

One major question in biology is how unspecialized stem cells differentiate into specialized cells. For example, embryonic stem cells can develop into entire organisms and stem cells found in bone marrow can develop into red and white blood cells. Stem cells can also give rise to reproductive cells known as gametes, a process known as gametogenesis. One way to study this process is by using model organisms. Nematodes are an advantageous model organism because their germ cells are linearly arranged in a developmental sequence. In other words, we can see the entire process of specialization at one time. In the best-studied nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, unspecialized stem cells are present at the distal portion of the germline. These cells undergo mitosis and then subsequently enter meiosis (Corsi et al., 2005).

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The Role of FBF in Oocyte Maturation in Rhabditis sp. SB347

A fundamental question in biology is how unspecialized stem cells develop into specific and specialized cell types. To address this question, we will investigate the potential role of FBF protein in the nematode species Rhabditis sp. SB347 based on the current understanding of FBF function in C. elegans. In the best studied nematode, C. elegans, FBF down-regulates germline stem cell differentiation by inhibiting translation of mRNAs that promote cell differentiation. Previous studies have shown that in hermaphrodite C. elegans, sperm must be present for oocytes to reach maturation. Based on this C. elegans model, we hypothesize that in SB347, FBF also plays a role in oocyte maturation and that this transition may depend on the presence of sperm. If FBF depends on the presence of sperm, then we predict that FBF will be present in the -1 oocyte in mated female germlines and absent in unmated female germlines. Ultimately, this project will provide more insights in the potential role that FBF plays in oocyte maturation in SB347.