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NSF grant boosts research on proteins that affect fertility
Date:3/25/2013

teins can substitute for one another," Chu said. "If they can, it means that an animal whose sperm is missing one protein may still be able to reproduce. But if you're missing more than one protein you may be sterile."

This would explain what Chu and her students have observed in the lab. They created a mutant worm that was missing one sperm protein. The worm was able to reproduce but it produced 30-40 percent less offspring than typical worms.

"Sperm cells might have this safety mechanism that kicks in when one protein is missing, but that missing protein could still have implications later on, for example problems conceiving, miscarriage or birth defects."

Also funded by the NSF grant, Chu and her graduate students will continue their studies of tiny worms, observing what happens to the worms' reproduction when they have a different mix of proteins in their sperm.

"Our findings will help us understand more about fertility in humans and other animals," Chu said. "We hope they will also help researchers to answer broader scientific questions about how genes can be turned on and off through a subtle change in a single protein."

Chu's latest grant comes after her 2011 discovery of a group of enzymes that help worm sperm to develop and move. Her work has attracted several NSF grants, including the agency's prestigious CAREER award as well as funding for a state-of-the-art microscope at SF State.


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Contact: Elaine Bible
pubcom@sfsu.edu
415-338-1665
San Francisco State University
Source:Eurekalert

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