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Changchun Chen

Wallenberg Molecular Medicine Fellow: Neuroscience

Oxygen sensing

Animals are experiencing frequent changes in O2 availability in their living environments, and they have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to cope with both acute and chronic alterations in O2 supply. Importantly, interruption of O2 supply for more than a few minutes could lead to irreversible pathogenesis of many major causes of mortality in humans. Despite intensive research, the molecular and neural circuit bases of O2 sensing remain unclear.

We are investigating acute and chronic O2 sensation in the nematode C. elegans. Studying O2 sensing in C. elegans provides many unique advantages over other systems. C. elegans robustly respond to the changes in O2 levels, and is amenable for high-throughput behavioural screens to identify functionally relevant molecules without prior knowledge. Its fully-constructed nervous system allows us to trace flow of information from sensory inputs to motor outputs. We will combine large-scale genetic screen, biochemistry, calcium imaging, optogenetics, and single neuron transcriptional profiling to delineate O2 sensing mechanisms at both molecular and neural circuit levels. Our research has the potential to gaini mportant new insights into the neuronal basis of behavioral and physiological adaptations that are important for an organism to survive better under extreme conditions.

Changchun Chen