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Mate or hibernate? That's the question worm pheromones answer
Date:7/24/2008

its small-molecule signaling has been poorly understood. We wanted to understand how C. elegans talk to each other, basically."

About four out of every five animals on the planet is the same type of organism as C. elegans a nematode, said Edison. Although the C. elegans worm, which is about 1 millimeter in length, is harmless to humans, many nematodes destroy crops or act as parasites in humans and animals, such as the large human intestinal parasite Ascaris lumbricoides. Because it is easy to grow and manipulate in the laboratory, C. elegans is a model for understanding the basic biology of humans, animals and other worms that threaten human health.

C. elegans worms are either male or hermaphrodite meaning they feature both male and female reproductive organs and to pinpoint how they communicate, UF researchers and their collaborators isolated the chemicals the hermaphrodites secrete and tested them on male worms.

Initial tests proved the males were attracted to the secretions when the hermaphrodites were fertile. Using mass spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy including a UF- and National High Magnetic Field Laboratory-developed NMR probe that allows researchers to test extremely small amounts researchers isolated the three chemicals in these secretions that are responsible for the mating signal.

When tested individually, the chemicals produced little to no response. But the chemicals strongly attracted male worms when they worked in synergy with each other, said Edison, who also serves as director of the McKnight Brain Institute's Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy facility and co-principal investigator of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

But it was a chance collaboration with Cornell researcher Frank Schroeder, Ph.D., that led to the paper's biggest finding, Edison said. Schroeder had recently discovered what's known as a dau
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Contact: April Frawley Birdwell
afrawley@ufl.edu
352-273-5810
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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