Jennifer Schisa, Ph.D.
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The overall goal of our laboratory is to better understand germ cells, the cells that give rise to the egg and sperm. Germ cells are of clear importance for the maintenance of species and differ from differentiated somatic cells in several fundamental ways. Despite their significance as a cell lineage, precisely how they acquire and maintain totipotency remains unknown.

Germ granules are a conserved component of germ cells seen in both vertebrates and invertebrates. While germ granules have been studied in many model systems, and germ granule components have been shown to be required for fertility, we still do not know their biochemical function. We are studying germ granules in the nematode model system, C. elegans, where they are called P granules. P granules contain several putative RNA-binding proteins that are required for fertility, as well as a diverse set of RNAs. We are currently conducting experiments to test the hypothesis that the association of maternal mRNA with P granules regulates their translation and/or stability.

We have also been exploring the similarities and differences between Processing bodies and Stress granules with large cytoplasmic foci of P granules that form in oocytes of animals with arrested ovulation.