The Amy K. Walker lab

How do we adapt our bodies to different nutritional or environmental conditions?  

How does our metabolism coordinate what we have for raw materials into how much we grow, our reproductive capacity, our susceptibility to disease, our aging processes?

People can eat an amazing variety foods, but the prevalence of metabolic diseases, such as type II diabetes, suggest that there is something in the “Western diet” that is pathologic to many people.  To understand the molecular links between metabolism and physiology, we use C. elegans and mammalian cell culture models to investigate how metabolic pathways respond to nutritional or environmental cues.  These pathways also produce small molecules that can function as molecular signals, changing how genes are expressed, reproductive rates, lipid storage and aging.  

One of these molecules, s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is produced by the one-carbon, or folate cycle.  SAMe is used as the methyl donor in methylation of histones, DNA, lipids, RNA and other proteins, thus the production of SAMe is a regulatory point that can affect epigenetics, lipid accumulation and other diverse cellular processes.  In the Walker lab, we use genetic or dietary methods to limit SAMe production in C. elegans to understand the molecular mechanisms that are affected when the capacity for methylation is decreased.