McGrath lab has been awarded a prestigious R01 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) to work on understanding the mechanisms behind the extensive effects of genetic epistasis and organismal age on complex mixture of common and rare variants that shape most biological traits. Improved understanding of these processes could identify principals useful for predicting how causal factors act in novel genetic backgrounds and therapeutic techniques to take advantage of their non-linear effects to ameliorate disease. The broad objective of the proposed research is the identification of causative genetic variants affecting reproduction in C. elegans with age- dependent effect sizes and epistatic interactions. Once in hand, we will mechanistically dissect their causes in the context of organ and multicellular circuit function. We will study how life history changes in sperm number, a limited resource necessary for reproduction, creates age-dependent genetic architecture. Finally we will study how epistasis and aging are shaped by the function of the underlying neural circuit responsible for regulation of reproduction. These experiments will leverage C. elegans tractability to identify principles relevant to the study of human diseases.
Hang Lu (professor in Chemical and Molecular Engineering) and Patrick McGrath have received an IBB seed grant to develop directed evolution approaches to evolve new traits of interest. As proof of principal, they will evolve extensions to lifespan using microfluidics/automated fluorescent microscopy pioneered by the Lu lab. Causative mutations will be identified using next-generation sequencing and quantitative genetics approaches. This seed grand provides $100,000 of support over two years.
Patrick was awarded this grant from the EMF to study how complex genetics can influence the aging process in the small nematode C. elegans. In humans, lifespan is a heritable trait, meaning that differences in our genes influence how fast we age. The McGrath lab plans to identify new signaling pathways controlling aging by harnessing directed evolution to evolve multigenic changes to C. elegans lifespan. This grant provides $400,000 of support over 4 years.