Investigating Mechanisms, Natural Variation, and Sex Differences in Response to Serotonin

Lendin Stell Santiago, Kris Korpontinos, Delyar Khosroabadi, Annabelle Tran, Jamie Ferns, & Dr. Gareth Harris


Mood disorders, such as depression, affect over 40 million people in the US. Despite the use of an array of therapeutics for mood disorders, current understanding of the mechanisms underlying these processes and the specific targets of each therapy remains unclear. This results in variable success of the existing treatments, along with very little specificity toward an individual. More recently, there has been a deeper focus on understanding serotonin targets involved in mood and mood disorders. We use the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, to investigate the behavioral effects of serotonin and the neural mechanisms and intracellular pathways that mediate serotonin’s effect on the brain. Our present study specifically investigates, 1) the novel targets of serotonin, and 2) how serotonin-dependent behaviors may vary across different species within the Caenorhabditis genus. We have found that known serotonin effects on worm behaviors including paralysis and stimulated egg laying require specific brain signals, and were significantly different across worm species that originate from distinct geographical locations. This implies the possibility of characterizing intracellular pathways and the factors that contribute to the differing behaviors, to better understand the extent of pharmacological drug specificity toward an individual suffering from mood disorders. We intend to continue the discovery of serotonin targets, and how these effects differ across nematodes, to assess the fundamental variation in alternate behavioral responses to both serotonin and serotonin targeting therapeutics, which continues to be highly important in understanding human neuropsychiatric disease, like depression, addiction, and bipolar disorder.


Session 2

3:00pm – 4:30pm

Grand Salon


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