Date of Award

Fall 12-10-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Walter William Walthall

Second Advisor

Casonya Matese Johnson

Third Advisor

Vincent Rehder

Abstract

The neuromuscular junction (nmj) is a commonly studied synapse, used often to investigate reciprocal signaling between a motor neuron and the appropriate target muscle. In Caenorhabditis elegans, ectopic nmjs can be created by eliminating selected embryonic muscle cells that act as guideposts for the migration of post-embryonic muscles. The ectopic muscles are required to induce sprouting from DD motor neurons, indicating the presence of a muscle derived signaling molecule that interacts with the neurons. A TGF-β homolog, unc-129, is reported to be transiently expressed in the dorsal body wall muscles. The timing of the expression of TGF-β coincides with the time that the DD motor neurons respecify their synapses. In this study, we show that TGF-β is expressed by the ectopic muscle and that in unc-129 mutant animals, the ectopic muscle is unable to induce sprouting from the DD motor neurons. Therefore, we conclude that TGF-β is necessary for ectopic nmj formation in C.elegans.

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