Utpal Banerjees project provides opportunities for course-based research to large numbers of early-stage undergraduates and high school students through UCLA's Undergraduate Research Consortium in Functional Genomics. In a separate course recently developed as part of the program, students "deconstruct" research presentations in a guided process that helps them learn about the concepts and techniques of experimental science.
Characterization of Genes Involved in Drosophila Hematopoiesis
Genetic mutations play an important role in the development of blood diseases such as leukemia and in congenital heart defects. We have used Drosophila to investigate genes involved in hematopoiesis. A large-scale RNA interference (RNAi) screen has identified many genes essential for blood development. Many of these genes, such as ones encoding adenosine receptor and GABA receptor, have unexpected roles in progenitor maintenance. We propose to characterize the roles of these new genes in hematopoiesis.
Two projects are available for students:
1. Directed screen: Several G protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs) that sense extracellular adenosine or GABA govern whether blood progenitor cells will be maintained or differentiate into mature cells. However, nothing is known about whether any other GPCRs (182 putative genes exist) function in the hematopoietic organ to control progenitor maintenance or differentiation. We have recently developed several new reporter genes that identify progenitor, mature, and supporting cells within the lymph gland using fluorescent proteins. These genetic reporters have been combined into a single line of flies, which we propose to use in the context of a directed loss-of-function (RNAi) screen targeting GPCRs in the lymph gland. Any changes to the blood cell populations because of knock down of critical GPCRs by RNAi will be reflected by the expression of the fluorescent reporters. Such a screen would be a rapid approach to identifying roles for new GPCRs in lymph gland hematopoiesis.
2. Roles of unknown genes: Our RNAi screen has identified more than 200 lines that exhibit hematopoietic defects. We are interested in investigating the specific roles these genes play in blood development. We will be conducting immunostaining of the Drosophila lymph gland, a tissue involved in hematopoiesis, using antibodies that serve as markers for early differentiating blood cells and for distinct cellular zones within the tissue. Genes that exhibit specific hematopoietic defects when disrupted will be investigated using standard molecular genetic techniques. The goal will be to place these genes into known genetic pathways or to identify novel pathways that regulate hematopoiesis. This project is part of the UCLA Undergraduate Research Consortium in Functional Genomics, which is sponsored by an HHMI Professor grant.