Luis Rene Garcia
Identification of ERG K Channel-regulated Pathways Used in C. elegans Male Mating Behavior
I am interested in understanding how genes specify organismal behaviors, and in turn, how behaviors modify organismal development. My lab addresses these two questions by studying the small round worm Caenorhabditis elegans. Several aspects of this worm's biology make it useful for genetic studies of behavior and development. C. elegans is an anatomically simple organism; it contains ~ 1000 somatic cells, a third of which are neurons. The worm is also transparent, and thus every cell can be visualized by light microscopy. In addition, behavioral and developmental mutants are easily obtainable through standard chemical mutagenesis.
My lab uses C. elegans male mating behavior as a model to understand how integration and regulation of chemosensory, mechanosensory, and motor control are genetically controlled. We study male mating by using genetics to de-construct this behavior into its fundamental motor components. We then use a combination of pharmacology, genetics and laser microsurgery to understand how individual motor sub-behaviors are coordinated to produce a gross organismal behavior.
The other focus of my lab concerns how G-protein signaling in muscles and neurons can modulate EGF signal transduction-mediated vulval development. Mutations in genes of the EGF pathway cause C. elegans hermaphrodites to form abnormal vulval tissue. Inducing behavioral hyperactivity using an activated mutant allele of Gaq can restore vulval development. This G-protein function requires extra-cellular calcium mobilization in body-wall muscles. To determine how developing epithelial tissue responds to G-protein-mediated muscle excitation, my lab is isolating and characterizing additional mutations that simultaneously affect behavioral and EGF-mediated development. Our eventual goal is to understand how the nervous system modulates developmental programs in response to changing environmental signals.