Welcome to the Williams Lab at Coastal Carolina University

Elegans Movie.mp4


Research in our laboratory focuses on how organisms deal with stress. Biological stress can take many different forms, such as oxidative stress that is due to excessive reactive oxygen species, or osmotic stress that results from high solute concentrations. Despite the importance that dealing with biological stress has on cellular and organismal function, relatively little is known about the cellular pathways and molecular mechanisms involved in stress response. To learn more about the stress response, we utilize the genetic model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. This microscopic free-living nematode worm has a number of advantages that make it an ideal system to study biological stress, such as ease of cultivation on defined media, rapid generation time, a well characterized nervous system, and fully sequenced genome.

Reactive oxygen species mediated neurodegeneration

The nervous system is particularly sensitive to oxidative stress and many neurodegenerative diseases are associated with oxidative stress. I've developed a technique to target high levels of reactive oxygen species to select neurons using the photosensitizer KillerRed. Upon activation of KillerRed and subsequent induction of oxidative stress, these neurons undergo neurodegeneration and die. We are using this system to test whether neurodegeneration triggered by reactive oxygen species utilizes distinct cellular pathways from other forms of neurodegeneration. In addition, we are using KillerRed to investigate differences in neuronal sensitivity to reactive oxygen species as a function of age. The results of this study are expected to ultimately lead to identification of genes encoding proteins that mediate neurodegeneration. 

Biological response to high osmolarity

Organisms are constantly subjected to fluctuations in the osmotic strength of their environment. Hyperosmotic conditions can lead to water loss, increased concentration of cytosolic ions, and cell shrinkage, which can be detrimental to cellular function is not properly compensated. The ability to osmoregulate is particularly important to organisms that dwell in intertidal zones as the osmotic conditions shift temporally and spatially. Over the past decade, C. elegans has become a good model to better understand biological responses to osmotic stress at the organismal level. Recently, we have isolated an interesting mutant that is unable to develop when cultivated on high glucose concentrations. This represents a novel osmotic sensitive phenotype that may provide a link between environmental osmotic conditions and progression through developmental pathways. Current experiments are aimed at characterizing this mutant phenotype and determining the molecular identity of this gene.

Thanks for stopping by to check out what we do. If you are interested in joining the lab, please contact Dr. Williams using the contact us link. There are usually openings for Coastal Carolina University students looking for an undergraduate research experience during the school year. In addition, research in the Williams lab occurs the entire year. There are often openings for motivated undergraduates and high school students.

Recent Announcements

  • First lab meeting of 2015 Lyndsay presented her results on the neurodegeneration and the ryanodine receptor. Next up is journal club on mec-4(d) mediated neurodegeneration
    Posted Sep 17, 2015, 7:45 PM by Daniel Williams
  • This one is dedicated to Wakefield
    Posted Aug 25, 2015, 11:45 AM by Daniel Williams
  • New semester has begun. Undergraduate research students wanted. Welcome back to campus for Fall 2015!! There are some positions open for undergraduate researchers. Send Dr. Williams an email if you are interested. 
    Posted Aug 21, 2015, 11:32 AM by Daniel Williams
  • Lyndsay's Award Winning Semester Congratulations to Lyndsay for a 1st place poster at the South Carolina Academy of Science Annual Meeting and a 2nd place talk at the Coastal Carolina University Undergraduate Research Competition ...
    Posted May 13, 2015, 12:25 PM by Daniel Williams
  • Williams Lab Group WebPage Launched Hello World!!
    Posted May 13, 2015, 12:17 PM by Daniel Williams
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