Characterization and Applications of Natural Variation in C. elegansPublic Deposited
Caenorhabditis elegans has been a highly productive model organism. However, most of the knowledge gained from the species has come a single strain isolated in Bristol, England in 1951. However, there exists significant potential in the natural variation present in the species to make discoveries. In this dissertation, I describe my work in the Andersen lab in which I developed resources for working with natural variation in C. elegans and used these resources to make scientific discoveries. Efforts to strengthen C. elegans for natural variation studies spanned several areas. First, I was involved in collecting wild isolate strains across the Hawaiian islands. As a part of this effort, we developed an efficient sample-collection protocol that enabled us to obtain thousands of samples. Additionally, I created a series of bioinformatic pipelines for analyzing whole-genome sequence (WGS) data from wild isolates of the species. These pipelines process sequence data and output datasets required for genome-wide association (GWA), linkage mapping, and population genetic studies. To further strengthen the utility of these datasets, we have developed a web-based portal known as the C. elegan Natural Diversity Resource (CeNDR; elegansvariation.org) that allows users to obtain strains and their sequence data, browse genetic variation, and perform GWA. We have been successful in applying this dataset for a variety of studies, including a project I spearheaded in which we identified how natural genetic variation contributes to telomere-length variation in wild isolates of the species. Our efforts to develop natural variation resources in C. elegans have become a valuable resource to the scientific community and are beginning to yield discoveries across diverse biological topics.
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