Diana Francis Rose Hills
Gene Silencing with a Novel RNAi Method in the Cassiopea Jellyfish
At night, the Cassiopea jellyfish slows its activity and enters a sleep state. Because sleep research focuses on models with centralized nervous systems, the sleep behavior of this brainless, decentralized jellyfish exposes a gap in the field that my project will address. In particular, I plan to test our novel RNA interference (RNAi) technique and use it to characterize the molecular mechanisms of sleep in Cassiopea. My lab recently developed the first RNAi protocol for jellyfish, a significant feat given that standard techniques are not easily applied to this nontraditional organism. First, I aim to develop positive control RNAi constructs to provide confidence in our future knockdowns. The constructs will target genes whose knockdown can be screened by eye: sphingosine kinase and microophthalmia-associated transcription factor. Second, I aim to silence an acetylcholine receptor subunit connected to sleep and activity using our method in sleep-deprived jellyfish. I will compare the resulting phenotype and expression domains to those of RNAi-treated jellyfish with undisturbed sleep. This approach will help illuminate this gene’s function in homeostatic sleep regulation.