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Rotation projects:

We are currently accepting rotation students.

Contact Mark Alkema for details (Mark.Alkema@umassmed.edu).


Fight-or-Flight, Insulin Signaling and Stress:

Using the escape response in C. elegans as a model of acute stress our lab has identified an antagonistic relationship between the "fight-or-flight" response and an animal's ability to survive a variety of environmental stressors including oxidation, heat stress and starvation.

Tyramine, the invertebrate form of adrenaline, is released during the escape response and ultimately leads to the activation of the insulin receptor DAF-2. Activation of DAF-2 allows mobilization of energy to help the animal escape but it also prevents the transcription factor DAF-16/FOXO from entering the nucleus where it can drive transcription of conserved genes for antioxidant responses, heat shock proteins and autophagy. As a result repeated activation of the escape response leaves animals more susceptible to other stressors and reduces lifespan. These findings are similar to what is observed in humans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  For more details see De Rosa et al. Nature 2019.

Rotation projects are available to further investigate this pathway, with a particular emphasis on the role of trauma in early development.