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Principal Investigator: Leuthner, Tess Catherine
Institute Receiving Award Duke University
Location Durham, NC
Grant Number F32ES034954
Funding Organization National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Award Funding Period 01 Sep 2023 to 31 Aug 2026
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Pollution is the leading environmental cause of premature death and disease globally, yet only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of chemicals in production have undergone safety testing. To solve this problem, the long-term goal is to develop advanced, predictive toxicity testing to transform environmental health protection. The overall objective of this proposal is to use a groundbreaking population-sequencing approach to harness the natural genetic diversity of wild C. elegans in combination with functional genomics approaches to identify the structure-activity relationships of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The central hypothesis is that underlying genetic variation will result in variation in response to PFAS exposures, which will identify unique molecular mechanisms of toxicity across PFAS that vary in three structural properties: chain length, chain composition, and functional group. The rationale is that generating toxicity data to regulate the >12,000 individual PFAS chemicals currently in production is impractical, but identification of structure-activity relationships of PFAS is likely to contribute to improved risk assessment and regulation of PFAS. The central hypothesis will be tested using three specific aims: 1) Determine the contribution of genetic architecture on PFAS toxicity in wild C. elegans; 2) Identify the effects of PFAS structure on gene regulation; and 3) Identify genomic variants that confer sensitivity and resistance to PFAS exposures. For the first aim, 192 wild strains of C. elegans will be used in a pooled-population, selection and sequencing approach to determine the contribution of natural genetic variation in response to exposures and identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) that are associated with specific structural features of PFAS. For the second aim, ATAC-sequencing and mRNA-sequencing will be conducted in laboratory, wild-type (N2) C. elegans following exposures to the same PFAS chemicals to identify gene-regulatory mechanisms involved in response to exposures and shared and unique responses based on each molecular attribute. For the third aim, candidate gene variants will be prioritized and tested for causality (structure-specific sensitivities) using genome editing and phenotypic analysis. This proposal is innovative because it uses a multi- omics approach to identify causal gene variants and regulatory pathways to reveal specific structure- activity signatures of PFAS toxicity. The proposed research is significant because it is expected to contribute to improved risk assessments through the identification of novel mechanisms of PFAS toxicity and structure-activity relationships. Ultimately, the i dentification of genes and molecular mechanisms that mediate response to PFAS exposures provides the opportunity to extrapolate across chemicals that share molecular attributes for improved regulation to promote healthier lives.
Science Code(s)/Area of Science(s) Primary: 22 - Gene Polymorphism
Secondary: 03 - Carcinogenesis/Cell Transformation
Publications No publications associated with this grant
Program Officer Kimberly Mcallister
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