Purdue University Graduate School
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posted on 2023-04-22, 05:44 authored by Audrey Anne NicolAudrey Anne Nicol

 Obesity is a growing concern as 42.3% of people in the U.S were considered obese in the years 2017- 2018. Little is known about the genetic components that contribute to weight gain. In humans, the hormone glucagon is a major contributor to the body’s energy demand as it helps break down lipids. Therefore, learning more about this pathway could enable a range of therapeutics. In fact, studies have shown that glucagon treatments have helped patients with both weight loss and appetite suppression. In this project, we analyzed candidate genes that modify the glucagon pathway in Drosophila melanogaster. We reduced the expression of the fly version of the glucagon receptor (AKHR) in our model. This induces fat retention in the L3 larvae, which mimics obesity in humans. We then crossed our model to the DGRP and looked for natural variation in fat content using a density assay. The density assay examines the relative fat levels of the larvae by slowly increasing the amount of sucrose in water. This enables us to observe whether we have lean larvae which float later or fat larvae which float early on. We used the variation in floating concentration to identify candidate modifier genes through GWA or genome-wide association study. We crossed our AKHR RNAi model to RNAi for various candidate modifier genes that may enhance or suppress fat retention. We screened these candidates initially with the same density assay used in the original study. This resulted in four candidate genes that significantly impacted the density of the larvae: THADA, AmyD, GluRIIC, and CG9826. We further characterized these candidates using biochemical assays to analyze stored metabolites such as triglycerides, glucose, glycogen, and protein. These have been further analyzed under control, high sugar, and high fat conditions to see if the larvae are resistant to environmental changes. CG9826 showed significant increase in stored fats across all environments. THADA RNAi showed an increase in fat in the high fat environment. Overexpression of THADA showed a decrease in fat storage in the high fat environment. Our goal is to advance our understanding of the glucagon signaling pathway, obesity, and lipid metabolism. We are also hopeful to provide candidate genes that can be regarded as future therapeutic targets. 


Indiana Academy of Sciences


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Biological Sciences

Campus location

  • Fort Wayne

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Rebecca Palu

Additional Committee Member 2

Ahmed Mustafa

Additional Committee Member 3

Jaiyanth Daniel