Oscar Arenas Sabogal
The detection of mechanical forces is essential for the survival of all living organisms. Despite its importance, most of our current knowledge of how these cues are detected and how they influence behavior is limited to research in animals like mammals, flies and, worms. Yet, little is known of how animals with simple nervous systems (nerve nets) use mechanical stimuli to drive their behaviors. Ctenophores, like Mnemiopsis leidyi, are descendants from animals that predate the split of invertebrates and vertebrates. These animals have a sensory structure -the aboral organ – that detects mechanical forces. However, we don’t know the physiological and molecular basis for this sensitivity. I hypothesize that the balancer cells in the aboral organ of M. leidyi have mechanically activated channels that transform mechanical stimuli into electrical signals. Using a combination of electrophysiology, molecular and bioinformatic tools, I will study the molecular basis for detection of mechanical cues in the aboral organ.