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Event Detail (Archived)

Transgenerational Inheritance of Pathogen Avoidance (or, How Getting Food Sickness Might Save Your Species)

  • This event already took place in April 2019
  • Caspary Auditorium

Event Details

Friday Lecture Series
Coleen Murphy, Ph.D., professor, department of molecular biology and Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, director, Glenn Center for Quantitative Aging Research, Princeton University; HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

The ability to inherit learned information from parents could be evolutionarily beneficial, enabling progeny to better survive dangerous conditions. We discovered that after C. elegans have learned to avoid the pathogenic bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA14), they can pass this learned behavior on to their progeny, through either the male or female germline, persisting through the fourth generation. Expression of the TGF-beta ligand DAF-7 in the ASI sensory neurons correlates with and is required for this transgenerational avoidance behavior. Additionally, the Piwi/Argonaute homolog PRG-1 and its downstream molecular components are required for transgenerational inheritance of both avoidance behavior and ASI daf-7 expression. Animals whose parents have learned to avoid PA14 display a PA14 avoidance-based survival advantage that is also prg-1-dependent, suggesting an adaptive response. Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of pathogenic learning may optimize progeny decisions to increase survival in fluctuating environmental conditions.

Coleen T. Murphy is a Professor of Genomics and Molecular Biology at Princeton University. She graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Biophysics, then earned her doctorate in Biochemistry at Stanford University, studying the structure-function determinants of pre-steady state kinetics and motility of the motor protein myosin. Dr. Murphy became interested in applying new technologies to approach the question of aging, and during her postdoctoral work in Dr. Cynthia Kenyon’s lab (UCSF), she built C. elegans microarrays and used them to identify the set of genes downstream of the insulin signaling/FOXO longevity pathway. This work revealed that insulin signaling coordinates the expression of a vast array of downstream cellular processes, including stress response, proteostasis, metabolism, immunity, autophagy, and intercellular signaling, to extend cellular and organismal maintenance with age. 

In her own lab, Dr. Murphy’s team has developed C. elegans models of human “quality of life” aging phenotypes, such as cognitive aging, reproductive aging, and mechanical aging. They have found that these processes are remarkably well-conserved at the molecular level, and have identified genetic pathways that can extend these processes with age. Recently, Dr. Murphy’s lab made the surprising discovery that mating induces rapid post-reproductive aging, utilizing the same genetic pathways that extend longevity. Additionally, Dr. Murphy’s team has developed new genomic approaches to isolate and transcriptionally profile all of C. elegans’ adult cells, in order to better utilize this system as a model for human disease.

Justin Sloboda
(212) 327-7785
Open to
Paul Cohen
Refreshments, 3:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m., Abby Lounge
Justin Sloboda
(212) 327-7785

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