Welcome to the Chalasani lab! We use Caenorhabditis elegans, Danio rerio, and Mus musculus to study how the nervous system integrates changes in external and internal environment to generate behavior. We expect to uncover principles of brain function and develop therapeutics for various human neurological conditions.
Magaram, U., Weiss, C., Vasan, A., Reddy, K.C., Friend, J., Chalasani, S.H. Two pathways are required for ultrasound-evoked behavioral changes in Caenorhabditis elegans. (2022) PLOS One. 17(5):e0267698. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0267698
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Ultrasound has been shown to affect the function of both neurons and non-neuronal cells, but, the underlying molecular machinery has been poorly understood. Here, we show that at least two mechanosensitive proteins act together to generate C. elegans behavioral responses to ultrasound stimuli. We first show that these animals generate reversals in response to a single 10 msec pulse from a 2.25 MHz ultrasound transducer. Next, we show that the pore-forming subunit of the mechanosensitive channel TRP-4, and a DEG/ENaC/ASIC ion channel MEC-4, are both required for this ultrasound-evoked reversal response. Further, the trp-4;mec-4 double mutant shows a stronger behavioral deficit compared to either single mutant. Finally, overexpressing TRP-4 in specific chemosensory neurons can rescue the ultrasound-triggered behavioral deficit in the mec-4 null mutant, suggesting that both TRP-4 and MEC-4 act together in affecting behavior. Together, we demonstrate that multiple mechanosensitive proteins likely cooperate to transform ultrasound stimuli into behavioral changes.
Matty, M.A., Lau, H.E., Haley, J.A., Singh, A., Chakraborty, A., Kono, K., Reddy, K.C., Hansen, M., Chalasani, S.H. Intestine-to-neuronal signaling alters risk-taking behaviors in food-deprived Caenorhabditis elegans. (2022) PLOS Genetics. 18(5):e1010178. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1010178
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Animals integrate changes in external and internal environments to generate behavior. While neural circuits detecting external cues have been mapped, less is known about how internal states like hunger are integrated into behavioral outputs. Here, we use the nematode C. elegans to examine how changes in internal nutritional status affect chemosensory behaviors. We show that acute food deprivation leads to a reversible decline in repellent, but not attractant, sensitivity. This behavioral change requires two conserved transcription factors MML-1 (MondoA) and HLH-30 (TFEB), both of which translocate from the intestinal nuclei to the cytoplasm during food deprivation. Next, we identify the insulin-like peptide INS-31 as a candidate ligand relaying food-status signals from the intestine to other tissues. Further, we show that neurons likely use the DAF-2 insulin receptor and AGE-1/PI-3 Kinase, but not DAF-16/FOXO to integrate these intestine-released peptides. Altogether, our study shows how internal food status signals are integrated by transcription factors and intestine-neuron signaling to generate flexible behaviors via the gut-brain axis.
Mei, J., Vasan, A., Magaram, U., Takemura, K., Chalasani, S.H., Friend, J. Well-free agglomeration and on-demand three-dimensional cell cluster formation using guided surface acoustic waves through a couplant layer. (2022) Biomed Microdevices. 24(2):18. DOI: 10.1007/s10544-022-00617-z
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Three-dimensional cell agglomerates are broadly useful in tissue engineering and drug testing. We report a well-free method to form large (1.4-mm) multicellular clusters using 100-MHz surface acoustic waves (SAW) without direct contact with the media or cells. A fluid couplant is used to transform the SAW into acoustic streaming in the cell-laden media held in a petri dish. The couplant transmits longitudinal sound waves, forming a Lamb wave in the petri dish that, in turn, produces longitudinal sound in the media. Due to recirculation, human embryonic kidney (HEK293) cells in the dish are carried to the center of the coupling location, forming a cluster in less than 10 min. A few minutes later, these clusters may then be translated and merged to form large agglomerations, and even repeatedly folded to produce a roughly spherical shape of over 1.4 mm in diameter for incubation-without damaging the existing intercellular bonds. Calcium ion signaling through these clusters and confocal images of multiprotein junctional complexes suggest a continuous tissue construct: intercellular communication. They may be formed at will, and the method is feasibly useful for formation of numerous agglomerates in a single petri dish.
Vasan, A., Allein, F., Duque, M., Magaram, U., Boechler, N., Chalasani, S.H., Friend, J. Microscale concert hall acoustics to produce uniform ultrasound stimulation for targeted sonogenetics in hsTRPA1-transfected cells. (2022) Adv Nanobiomed Res. 2(5). DOI: 10.1002/anbr.202100135
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The field of ultrasound neuromodulation has rapidly developed over the past decade, a consequence of the discovery of strain-sensitive structures in the membrane and organelles of cells extending into the brain, heart, and other organs. Notably, clinical trials are underway for treating epilepsy using focused ultrasound to elicit an organized local electrical response. A key limitation to this approach is the formation of standing waves within the skull. In standing acoustic waves, the maximum ultrasound intensity spatially varies from near zero to double the mean in one half a wavelength, and has lead to localized tissue damage and disruption of normal brain function while attempting to evoke a broader response. This phenomenon also produces a large spatial variation in the actual ultrasound exposure in tissue, leading to heterogeneous results and challenges with interpreting these effects. One approach to overcome this limitation is presented herein: transducer-mounted diffusers that result in spatiotemporally incoherent ultrasound. Herein, we numerically and experimentally quantified the effect of a diffuser in an enclosed domain, and show that adding the diffuser leads to a two-fold increase in ultrasound responsiveness of hsTRPA1 transfected HEK cells. Furthermore, we demonstrate the diffuser allow us to produce an uniform spatial distribution of pressure in the rodent skull. Collectively, we propose that our approach leads to a means to deliver uniform ultrasound into irregular cavities for sonogenetics.
Quach, K.T., Chalasani, S.H. Flexible reprogramming of Pristionchus pacificus motivation for attacking Caenorhabditis elegans in predator-prey competition. (2022) Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.02.033
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Animals with diverse diets must adapt their food priorities to a wide variety of environmental conditions. This diet optimization problem is especially complex for predators that compete with prey for food. Although predator-prey competition is widespread and ecologically critical, it remains difficult to disentangle predatory and competitive motivations for attacking competing prey. Here, we dissect the foraging decisions of the omnivorous nematode Pristionchus pacificus to reveal that its seemingly failed predatory attempts against Caenorhabditis elegans are actually motivated acts of efficacious territorial aggression. While P. pacificus easily kills and eats larval C. elegans with a single bite, adult C. elegans typically survives and escapes bites. However, non-fatal biting can provide competitive benefits by reducing access of adult C. elegans and its progeny to bacterial food that P. pacificus also eats. We show that the costs and benefits of both predatory and territorial outcomes influence how P. pacificus decides which food goal, prey or bacteria, should guide its motivation for biting. These predatory and territorial motivations impose different sets of rules for adjusting willingness to bite in response to changes in bacterial abundance. In addition to biting, predatory and territorial motivations also influence which search tactic P. pacificus uses to increase encounters with C. elegans. When treated with an octopamine receptor antagonist, P. pacificus switches from territorial to predatory motivation for both biting and search. Overall, we demonstrate that P. pacificus assesses alternate outcomes of attacking C. elegans and flexibly reprograms its foraging strategy to prioritize either prey or bacterial food.