Event date:
Oct 5 2021 6:00 pm

Activating Eggs and Stimulating Reproduction: The Molecular View from Drosophila (and Beyond)

Dr. Mariana Federica Wolfner
Successful reproduction in internal-fertilizing animals requires molecular modification of both the oocyte and the female. Oocytes must “activate”, transitioning from meiotic and molecular arrest to the totipotency of early embryogenesis after fertilization. The female’s physiology must change to support her reproductive success, egg production, and her progeny. Versions of these phenomena are universal, including in human fertility and that of insect vectors of diseases like Dengue and Zika. But they can be particularly well dissected using model-organisms such as Drosophila fruit flies. This talk will present results from studies using this model to dissect mechanisms that activate eggs, and others to elucidate mechanisms that stimulate the female’s reproductive capacity. We will see that egg activation is accompanied by a rise in calcium levels in the egg which, in turn, modifies the egg’s proteins to transition to embryogenesis. We will then consider how the female’s physiological state is modified by seminal proteins that she receives during mating, and how these male-derived proteins act to stimulate her egg production, including a signal that activates her eggs. The talk will conclude by summarizing how these findings inform our understanding of mechanisms of egg activation and seminal protein actions in animals more generally.

Mariana Federica Wolfner will be our next guest on the Molecular and Cellular Biology Colloquium Series which is scheduled on 5th October 2021, Tuesday at 6pm PKST. This series is an initiative by the Department of Biology, and you can find all lecture details here.

This session will go LIVE via the SBASSE Facebook page. 


About the Speaker:

Mariana Federica Wolfner is Cornell’s Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences in Molecular Biology & Genetics, a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow, and currently an Associate Department Chair. Her research focuses on understanding the molecular/genetic bases for important reproductive processes that occur around the time when a sperm fertilizes an egg. Using the Drosophila model, the Wolfner laboratory studies the molecular signals that "activate" an oocyte to initiate embryo development and also studies how seminal proteins modulate the reproductive physiology and behavior of female insects. Mariana received a B.A. in Biology and Chemistry from Cornell, a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Stanford, and did postdoctoral work at UC San Diego. She has mentored 43 graduate students, 30 postdoctoral scholars, and over 90 undergraduate or high school students in research. She has been honored to receive awards and recognition for her research from the Genetics Society of America, the Entomological Society of America, the International Congress of Entomology Council, and awards from Cornell for her teaching and advising/mentoring. Mariana is member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She serves on several Editorial and Biology-organizations’ Boards, and on various grants panels.