The foray into cell size control was stimulated by a hallway conversation between Dr. Derry and Dr. Ran Kafri, who has vibrant research program in this area.
Is there a molecular program that determines how long we live? The question of how cell size scales with lifespan is the focus of Rachel Webster’s project, who is co-supervised by Dr. Kafri and Dr. Derry. In collaboration with the Dor lab and the Jerusalem Zoo we have observed a strong negative correlation between the size of tissue-specific cells with an organism’s lifespan, suggesting that these two seemingly unrelated traits are controlled by a single pathway. The mTOR pathway has emerged independently from both lifespan and cell size studies as a potential master regulator, and as such we are using worms to define the role of mTOR activity in longevity and cell size. We are using the tools of genetics and cell biology to investigate how nucleolar size scales with cell size and lifespan of a multicellular organism (C. elegans). Gene editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 are being employed to manipulate the spatiotemporal expression of key regulatory proteins in signaling pathways to ask how cell size affects lifespan.
Maria will work closely with Rachel to determine how cell size influences lifespan in C. elegans.