WPI Researchers build Tool to Recognize Molecular Receptors for Pheromones in Worms

Scientists at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have created a method for recognizing molecular receptors in worms involved in mating-related pheromones, a development that could improve pheromone-related neuroscience research by removing months of work.

Associate Professor of Biology and Biotechnology Jagan Srinivasan, Ph.D. candidate in Biology Douglas K. Reilly, and Cornell University researchers report their findings in Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry, a UK-based journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Pheromones are animal-producing chemical compounds that send signals to other animals and cause social responses, such as mating. Their research could have human research implications because of C. Elegans have a nervous system that imitates basic odor functions in humans, and odor loss is associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

Srinivasan and Reilly have established a process that isolates receptors of pheromones in C more quickly. Elegant men. Receptors are specialized proteins that serve as molecular docking stations. The pheromones bind onto the molecular receptors in the worms when the worms are exposed to pheromones.

It has historically been a lengthy and laborious process to identify a single molecular receptor because the worms have more than 1,000 molecular receptors. Srinivasan explained the typical method of searching for a needle in a haystack–which takes three or four months. It takes around a month to develop the new system he and Reilly developed.

In their analysis Srinivasan and Reilly attached to ascaroside chemistry known as an alkyne, a pheromone formed by C. Male worms attract elegant to match.

“We wanted to find a way to take a pheromone and attach it to a sample, but it would still be biologically active so that a male would sense it and react with the right receptor,” Reilly said.

The researchers concentrated on the method for this analysis rather than the resulting receptor which they said might be a topic of further research. They said their probe methods might also be extended to other pheromones and other research species, such as flies, to better understand how receptors function.

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a purpose-driven educator and research community, has been the world leader in project-based learning for 50 years. With a project-based curriculum that captivates students in authentic, real-world experiences, WPI is an impact maker for higher education and the world.