Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are membrane-wrapped structures containing proteins, RNAs, and metabolites that are released from most if not all cells. Since EVs play important roles in physiological processes as well as neurodegenerative diseases and cancer, it is important to understand how cargoes are packaged into them and what triggers their release. Dr. Tanis, an assistant professor of Biological Sciences, is using the simple model organism C. elegans to visualize EV release from ciliated neurons in living animals. Systematic packaging of specific cargoes into EVs is dictated by the cell of origin. Dr. Tanis's group has shown that a single neuron can release multiple distinct EV subpopulations, each with different cargo enrichment, which may result in different functionalities. Dr. Tanis has been awarded a $1.68 million R01 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use C. elegans expressing fluorescently-tagged EV cargoes in a defined set of neurons to reveal new mechanistic insights into how an individual cell packages and releases distinct populations of EVs.
Another focus of Dr. Tanis's lab is the development of new genetics methods. Use of point mutants by geneticists is essential for discovery of gene function. Dr. Tanis and her postdoc Dr. Touroutine have designed and optimized "SuperSelective" (SS) primers for rapid, inexpensive, end-point PCR genotyping. Each SS primer contains a 5' anchor which anneals to the template, followed by a non-complementary bridge sequence, and short 3' foot sequence complementary to the target allele. They have defined how specificity and efficiency are achieved and developed simple rules for SS primer design. SS genotyping has potential for broad application and can be used by researchers working across a wide range of disciplines and genetic systems. This work was just published in Genetics.