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Model Systems in Cancer Research: Worm

Course describing model organisms and examples of their use in cancer research

Apoptosis animation

Visualizing apoptosis with some very good 3-D animation by Drew Berry.



Molecular mechanisms underlying apoptosis in cell culture

Worm movies

Links to many worm movies are found on this web page.

Scroll down to the bottom of the 'embryo' section to see cell death during development of wild type and mutant worms.

Collection of worm movies


worm cell death

Activities in the worm lab

The class will go with Giana to the Van Gilst lab after the lecture from ~3-3.30pm. We will get to see/do the following:

1. Wild type worms. 

2. Mutant worms (they move really strangely! This is used as a marker as we discussed in class).

3. Live worms moving about giving off green fluorescence due to expression of GFP.

4. Pick up worms - Giana says brave souls can try picking up worms and setting up a cross if they want to - cool! I want to try this!

Overall, we will get a sense of the entire worm lab set up.

Lecture Slides and Papers

Roundworm (Caenorhabditis elegans)

Lecture videos are available for viewing in the left column. They will be used to illustrate points about the following:

  • Apoptosis in general
  • Apoptosis mechanisms in cell culture
  • Apoptosis in normal and mutant worms

Required/Encouraged Reading

1. A review about how the worm was developed as a model organism

"The natural history of Caenorhabditis elegans research" by Ankeny RA

2. A very compact apoptosis overview. It is a bit old but covers the core concepts.
"Advances in apoptosis research" by Peter ME, Heufelder AE, and Hengartner MO

3. A review on how the worm can contribute to cancer gene discovery.

"Genome-wide RNAi screens in Caenorhabditis elegans: impact on cancer research" by Poulin G, Nandakumar R and Ahringer 

Books in Library

These books are on course reserve in the the Arnold Library, Weintraub building for two weeks after class. If you are interested in a more in depth view of the lecture topics take a look. Books are in the first floor copy room. A few of these books are on loan from the Van Gilst lab.

1. "In the beginning was the worm.. by Andrew Brown. A popular science book and nice read that recounts the story and people involved in establishing C.elegans as a model organism.

2. “The Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans” by WB Wood. Considered a sourcebook for C.elegans biology. Very in-depth information in chapters written by experts in each area covered.

3. "C.elegans II" (eds) Riddle D, Blumental T, Meyer B, and Priess JR. Another C.elegans sourcebook, even more in-depth discussion of molecular biology and genetics of the worm.

4. "Of fish, fly, worm, and man : lessons from developmental biology for human gene function and disease" by Nüsslein-Volhard, C. , Krätzschmar, J. Genetic research in worm, fly, fish, and rodent models reveals signaling pathways of biomedical significance . The book relevant to lectures 2-6 in this course.

On campus resources - FHCRC worm labs

FHCRC scientists working with the worm model system:

1. Linda Buck: neurophysiology; drug screens affecting lifespan

2. Jim Priess: developmental biology

3. Mark Roth: suspended animation and "metabolic hibernation"

4. Marc Van Gilst: nutrient sensing and metabolic adaptation

Online resources

These are excellent resources for C.elegans information. They provide very good information that is easily accessible.

1. A great starting point for all questions about C.elegans.

2.  An overview of worm anatomy including a huge catalog of worm images (both real and cartoon), along with a basic descriptive overview of the tissue, organ or cell of interest.

3. The worm community's go-to place for news, links to worm resources, and information about any C.elegans gene of interest.

4. An educational portal dedicated to C.elegans. 


If you're off-campus click on the 'FHCRC student' link in this box before trying to access full text course readings.

Once you've logged in, use your "back" button to return to this page and click on the links to the readings.

FHCRC students (sign in with your HutchNetID and password)