Roles of macroautophagy in Drosophila development
The fruit fly is used as a model organism in which we study the process of autophagy at a cellular and whole organism level.
|Project Leaders||Sharon Gorski|
Fruit fly - Drosophila melanogaster
We are interested in the biological process called autophagy due to its association with human diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders, bacterial and viral infections, and cancer. Autophagy literally means "self-eating" and describes a process where cells, components of tissues in our bodies, degrade parts of themselves for recycling and re-use. This degradation and recycling process typically serves as an adaptive response, enabling cells to survive conditions of stress such as nutrient deprivation (starvation). Similarly, autophagy can protect cells from damaging agents and in this way has been associated with various human diseases and disease treatments. In addition, there is evidence that autophagy is involved in developmental processes such as:
- cell growth
- tissue remodeling
- removal of intracellular components
- acquisition of cellular traits
- and longevity
The process of autophagy occurs within the cell. It involves steps of engulfment and degradation;
which allows for the recycling of nutrients within the cell. © Adrienne Hannigan (GSC)
Our goal in carrying out this research is to increase our understanding of the functions of autophagy as part of the normal development processes in an easily studied model organism. To achieve this goal, we are using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, which has several known autophagy related (Atg) genes. In this research program, we are exploring the idea that autophagy has undiscovered functions in normal development. For example, it has been suggested that autophagy functions in stem cell maintenance, survival and/or differentiation during normal development. Stem cells are specialized cells capable of self renewal and tissue generation.
Overall, our investigations of autophagy function will contribute to basic knowledge of its role in normal development, which further increase our understanding of its roles in human diseases and potential as a therapeutic target. The results of this study will likely provide invaluable insights into autophagy function in mammalian stem cells, including cancer stem cells.
For all project related inquires please contact us.
Stephanie McInnis, Project Manager
Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Agency
Phone: 604-675-8000 x 7965