Date of Award

Summer 6-28-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Integrative Biology (MSIB)



Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Christopher Cornelison

Major Professor

Dr. Martin Hudson

Second Committee Member

Dr. Lisa Ganser

Third Committee Member

Dr. Jared Taglialatela


Defects in the nervous system can impact the normal function of an organism. By examining mutations during neuronal development, we can better understand the significance of specific pathways. The EphR/ephrin pathway is crucial for axonal guidance during development. The simple organism, C. elegans, allow us to study the impact of EphR/ephrin genes on neuronal morphology, synapse connections, and basic behavior. In specific EphR/ephrin mutants, we see change in morphology and loss of synapses in a thermosensory and also a chemosensory circuit. These mutations can also lead to defects in food searching behaviors. These observations lead us to conclude that the EphR/ephrin pathway has a role in circuitry assembly and food-seeking behaviors.

After the nervous system has developed, proper establishment and formation must be maintained. When this maintenance is interrupted, this can lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 (FDTP-17). These diseases have the commonality of the formation of tau aggregations. Deciphering the impact of tauopathies in C. elegans allow us to investigate the effect of the aggregations on individual neurons and behavior. Introducing a human tau variant into the worms caused breaks in motor neurons and a reduction in the overall movement of the worm. This leads us to believe that this strain would be beneficial for testing anti-tau therapies to stop aggregants from forming before neuronal cell death occurs.

Available for download on Thursday, July 18, 2024