Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Young-Jai You


The worm Caenorhabditis elegans is a well-studied model organism in numerous aspects of its biology. This small free living nematode has less than 1,000 cells, but shows clear conservation in both signaling and behavior to mammals in aspects of appetite control. This is of importance to humans, where failure of appetite control is a major factor in the unprecedented obesity epidemic that we see today. In general, worm behavior reflects its internal nutritional state and the availability and quality of food. Specifically, worms show a behavioral state that mimics aspects of the mammalian behavioral satiety sequence, which has been termed satiety quiescence. We have used locomotion tracking and Hidden Markov Model analysis to identify worm behavioral state over time, finding quiescence along with the established worm locomotive behaviors roaming and dwelling. Using this analysis as well as more conventional cell biology and genetic approaches we have further investigated satiety signaling pathways. We have found that the neuron ASI is a major center of integration of signals regarding the internal nutritional state of the worms as well as the nutritional content of its environment. Our results show that cGMP causes levels of the TGFβ ligand to be increased in fasted worms, which is then released and binds to its receptor on the RIM and RIC neurons. This signaling connects nutritional state to behavioral response, promoting the sleep-like behavioral state satiety quiescence. Additionally, we have begun a candidate approach examining several other groups of signaling molecules for potential roles in satiety quiescence signaling including cannabinoids, multidrug resistance proteins, and neuropeptides. The result of this investigation is a better understanding of mechanisms of satiety quiescence signaling as well as a new tool that provides highly quantitative, unbiased, and automated data to aid in our ongoing work.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2013