A major component of the Dillin laboratory’s work is directed at uncovering the genetic pathways implicated in the stress response. Ryo Higuchi-Sanabria, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab, explores this area of study in the C. elegans model system using whole-genome screening and target validation. A key approach is RNA interference (RNAi) screens, in which C. elegans nematodes are exposed to an RNAi library stored in 96- or 384-well format.
Each well of the library contains a cassette that can “knock down” one of the approximately 20,000 C. elegans genes, so that nematodes treated with this cassette effectively lack the function of the RNA or protein it encodes. The nematodes are then subjected to certain types of stress treatments. If nematodes missing the function of a particular gene-product have enhanced or reduced survival following the stress treatment, the genetic pathways in which they lie may play a role in the stress response.