The role of lipids in reproduction and development.
Research SummaryMy research program aims to gain insight into the mechanisms through which the physical properties and regulatory actions of specific lipids impact the cell biology and physiology of animals. The implications of this research extend from understanding how specific fatty acids affect cell signaling to dissecting the fat regulatory pathways involved in obesity and related diseases. WE use the nematode model Caenorhabditis elegans and a combination of genetic, genomic and biochemical approaches to understand the regulation, function and biosynthesis of unsaturated fatty acids.
Unsaturated fatty acids play vital roles as structural components of membranes and as signaling molecules. We have isolated C. elegans mutants with altered capacity to synthesis unsaturated fatty acids. These mutants provide new tools to understand the roles unsaturated fatty acids in membrane biology and cell function. We discovered that dietary supplementation with an omega-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid, DGLA (20:3n-6), causes defects in the development and maintenance of germ cells. Nematodes feeding on DGLA, but not other long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids become sterile, partly due to cell death of germ cells. Our molecular, genetic, and biochemical studies promise to shed light on the roles of polyunsaturated fatty acids in reproductive processes.
Research PublicationsWatts, J.S., Morton, D, Kemphues, K. J.and Watts J.L. (2018). “The biotin-ligating protein BPL-1 is critical for lipid biosynthesis and polarization of the Caenorhabditis elegans embryo” Journal of Biological Chemistry 293(2): 610-622.
Shi, X., Tarazona, P., Brock, T.J., Browse, J., Feussner, I., and Watts, J.L. (2016). “A C. elegans model for ether lipid biosynthesis and function” Journal of Lipid Research 57(2): 265-75.
Deline, M., Keller, J., Rothe, M., Schunck, W-H., Menzel, R., Watts, J.L. (2015). “Epoxides Derived from Dietary Dihomo-Gamma-Linolenic Acid Induce Germ Cell Death in C. elegans” Scientific Reports 5:15417
Shi, X., Li, J, Zou, X, Greggain, J., Rodkaer, S.V., Faergeman, N.J., Liang, B., and Watts, J.L. (2013) “Regulation of lipid droplet size and phospholipid composition by stearoyl-CoA desaturase.” Journal of Lipid Research 54(9):2504-14.
Vrablik, T.L. and Watts, J.L. (2013) “Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Derived Signaling in Reproduction and Development: Insights from C. elegans and Drosophila”. Molecular Reproduction and Development 80(4):14-25.
Webster, C.M., Deline, M., and Watts, J.L. (2013), “Stress response pathways confer protection from omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid-mediated destruction of germ cells in C. elegans”, Developmental Biology 373(1):14-25.
Vrablik, T.L. and Watts, J.L. (2012) Emerging Roles for Specific Fatty Acids in Developmental Processes”. Genes and Development 26(7) 631-7.