The germline/soma dichotomy
Germ cells (sperm and egg) are the products of a reproductive cell lineage, the germline. Since germ cells are the only cells producing a whole new individual in the next generation, the germline is sometimes referred to as the "immortal" cell lineage. A fascinating problem in developmental and reproductive biology has been the molecular nature of the mechanisms maintaining the germline/soma dichotomy. Using a genetically tractable model, the nematode C. elegans, we showed that, by repressing the expression of specific mRNAs, conserved RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) function as the molecular "roadblocks" delaying the germline-to-soma transition until after fertilization. In the absence of these RBPs, germ cells abnormally differentiate into somatic cells forming the invertebrate equivalent of human teratomas. One of our goals is to identify the relevant mRNA targets and explain how their repression facilitates the maintenance of germline fate. The second goal is to dissect the molecular mechanisms by which the studied RBPs control their different mRNA targets. Solving these problems will help understand how the germline identity is preserved during development, allowing species propagation across generations. Since germ cells are considered the ultimate stem cells, our studies may also provide insights into the mechanisms regulating reprogramming in other types of stem - and regenerating cells.
How animals rewire cellular programs to survive cold is a fascinating problem with potential biomedical implications, ranging from emergency medicine to space travel. While the acute cold is potentially lethal, controlled cooling is used in transplantation and stroke or trauma treatments, helping preserve the functions of critical organs like the brain or heart. Cellular responses to cold are also of interest for longevity research, as animals generally live longer at cooler temperatures. To understand the underlying molecular mechanisms of cold resistance, we employ the C. elegans model and mammalian cells. Consistent with earlier studies, our recent studies identified ferritin-mediated iron detoxification as a conserved mechanism protecting nematodes from cold. We showed that mimicking this mechanism (genetically or with drugs) also protects from cold mammalian neurons. Therefore, in addition to gaining novel insights into a fascinating but poorly understood biological problem, our research has the potential to open new avenues to therapies involving accidental and induced hypothermia.
The C. elegans lab
View the video Into the Worm Lab (YouTube): you will learn about the C. elegans model and about the Ciosk lab's research at the Department of Biosciences of the University of Oslo.
The Research Council of Norway
Funded by The Research Council of Norway. Project number 286499.
EEA and Norway Grants
Funded by EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021. Project number UMO-2019/34/H/NZ3/00691.