Clitellate annelids (e.g., earthworms, leeches) contain specialized segments comprising the clitellum, whose primary function is to secrete a cocoon. Clitellate cocoons display remarkable physical properties, including resilience to temperature extremes, proteases and organic chemicals. The primary goals of this project are to characterize cocoon secretion at molecular and cellular levels, and to determine ultrastructural features that distinguish different cocoon types. The central hypothesis is that cocoon-secreting cells are derived from a single precursor cell type that differentiates into two lineages; one secretes protein granules that generate the cocoon membrane, while the other secretes a glycosylated form of the same protein that forms opercula (glue-like plugs that seal the cocoon ends). Employing available DNA and antibodies, an understanding of the evolution and secretion dynamics of the cocoon will be gained that will facilitate their potential applications as biomaterials (e.g., thin, flexible, transparent membranes; underwater adhesives; biopolymers). Student participants will be actively engaged in this research, present results at local, state and national symposia, and gain exposure to this work through its integration into existing 'Computers in Biology' and 'Electron Microscopy' courses at Rutgers-Camden.
|Effective start/end date||7/1/09 → 6/30/12|
- National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))