Iris Wu

Identifying a Mitokine Factor Involved in Cell-Non-Autonomous UPRmt Signaling

Several age-related neurodegenerative diseases are a result of a decline in protein homeostasis as organisms age. Mitochondria, a vital organelle in the cell, is especially susceptible and thought to be a sensor of proteotoxic stress. Understanding how mitochondria communicate stress and recover homeostasis is therefore fundamental in developing novel treatments for age-onset human diseases. One way that mitochondria communicate stress is through the mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt). Important work has shown that stress can be communicated between tissues, such as from neurons to intestinal cells, called the cell-non-autonomous UPRmt. However, how stress is communicated is not entirely known. It is postulated that an unknown factor termed mitokine is responsible for the stress signal communication. My project will identify a mitokine factor in cell-non-autonomous UPRmt using an EMS mutagenesis forward genetics screen in Caenorhabditis elegans. I hypothesize that an identified mitokine will be both necessary and sufficient to specifically induce UPRmt, and therefore, characterizing the identity of mitokine will reveal key insights into the mechanism of UPRmt, and in turn, how UPRmt confers organismal health.

Message to Sponsor

To the Pergo Foundation: Thank you for sponsoring such an incredible experience for me! Growing up with dreams of becoming a doctor, I had never fully appreciated the beauty of basic biology research. Participating in SURF and working in the Dillin Lab this summer, I was immersed in an environment full of aspiring scientists and interesting research projects. I have learned that carrying out independent research means thinking critically, embracing challenges, and tackling problems, all of which are challenging but at the same time fascinating processes. After college, I hope to pursue a MD-PhD program, and continue to grow as a scientist.
  • Major: Molecular & Cell Biology (Neurobiology)
  • Sponsor: Pergo Fund
  • Mentor: Andrew Dillin, Koning Shen