GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology

First Thesis Advisor

Heidi A. Tissenbaum Ph.D.


Insulin-Like Growth Factor I, Caenorhabditis elegans, Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins, Insulin, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt, Signal Transduction


The insulin/IGF-1 signaling (IIS) was initially identified in C. elegansto control a developmental phenotype called dauer. Subsequently, it was realized that lifespan was extended by mutations in this pathway and became an intense focus of study. The IIS pathway regulates growth, metabolism and longevity across phylogeny and plays important roles in human disease such as cancer and diabetes. Given the large number of cellular processes that this pathway controls, understanding the regulatory mechanisms that modulate insulin/IGF-1 signaling is of paramount importance.

IIS signaling is a very well-studied kinase cascade but few phosphatases in the pathway are known. Identification of these phosphatases, especially those that counteract the activity of the kinases, would provide a better insight into the regulation of this critical pathway. Study of serine/threonine phosphatases is hampered by the lack of appropriate reagents.

In Chapter II, we discuss the design and results of an RNAi screen of serine/threonine phosphatases performed in C. elegans using dauer formation as a phenotypic output. We identified several strong regulators of dauer formation and in Chapter III, proceed to characterize one of the top candidates of our screen, pptr-1. We show that pptr-1 regulates the IIS and thereby affects lifespan, development and metabolism in C .elegans.

pptr-1gene encodes a protein with high homology to the mammalian B56 family of PP2A regulatory subunits. PP2A is a ubiquitously expressed phosphatase that is involved in multiple cellular processes whose specificity determined by its association with distinct regulatory subunits.

Our studies using C. elegans provides mechanistic insight into how the PP2A regulatory subunit PPTR-1 specifically modulates AKT-1 activity by regulating its phosphorylation status in the context of a whole organism. Furthermore, we show that this mechanism of regulation is conserved in mammals.



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