Dustin Updike


  • B.S. University of Wyoming, 1999
  • PhD, University of Utah, 2006

Research Interests

Germ cells are the progenitors of reproductive cells, and the only cells in sexually reproducing animals that have the potential to give rise to all of the cell types of each subsequent generation. In our lab, we want to understand how these totipotent and immortal properties are conferred.  Part of the answer comes from special aggregates called “germ granules” that are found just outside the nucleus of germ cells. Recent research has shown that germ granules play a critical role in maintaining the totipotent and immortal properties of the germline. Take away an organism’s germ granules and it will become sterile. In some organisms, introducing germ granules in cells outside of the germline will restore cellular immortality and totipotency, and will reprogram them into germline stem cells.

Germ granules are conserved in their appearance, subcellular localization, and composition from worms to humans.  Because of this, we are able to quickly ascertain the mechanisms by which germ granules function by studying them in a small roundworm called C. elegans.  This well-established model organism is responsible for much of what we know about developmental genetics in humans.  Using fluorescence microscopy, germ granules (called P granules in C. elegans) can be observed in the germ line of transparent worms at all stages of development.  The genetic power of C. elegans combined with its short 3-day generation time and transparency offers an opportunity to study the function of germ granules that isn’t feasible in more complex model organisms.

C. elegans P granules

A focus of our research is to understand the biophysical properties of germ granules, how they are assembled, and the components that affect their subcellular distribution.  We have shown that germ granules are held together by weak hydrophobic interactions, and that they extend the size exclusion barrier of the nuclear pore complex out into the cytoplasm of germ cells.  Here germ granules create a specialized microenvironment that facilitates post-transcriptional processing events that are exclusive to the germline.  We are continuing to investigate the specifics of those processing events to understand how they are used to maintain the pluripotent and immortal properties of germ cells, and how these mechanisms can be applied to unlocking stem cell-like properties in other cell types.

C. elegans P granules

Selected Publications

  • Rochester JD, Tanner PC, Sharp CS, Andralojc KM, Updike DL. (2017 Sep). PQN-75 is expressed in the pharyngeal gland cells of Caenorhabditiselegans and is dispensable for germline development. Biol Open. 2017 Sep 15;6(9):1355-1363. doi: 10.1242/bio.027987. PMID:28916707
  • Andralojc KM, Campbell AC, Kelly AL, Terrey M, Tanner PC, Gans IM, Senter-Zapata MJ, Khokhar ES, Updike DL. (2017). ELLI-1, a novel germline protein, modulates RNAi activity and P-granule accumulation in Caenorhabditis elegans. PLoS Genet. 2017 Feb 9;13(2):e1006611. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006611. eCollection 2017 Feb. PMID:28182654
  • James A Coffman, Sandra Rieger, Aric N Rogers, Dustin L Updike, Viravuth P Yin (2016). Comparative biology of tissue repair, regeneration and aging. NPJ Regen Med. 2016; 1: 16003. Published online 2016 Jun 9. doi: 10.1038/npjregenmed.2016.3 PMCID: PMC5744711
  • Campbell, A. C., and D. L. Updike, (2015) CSR-1 and P granules suppress sperm-specific transcription in the C. elegans germline. Development 142: 1745–1755. Read Abstract
  • Strome, S., and D. L. Updike, (2015) Specifying and Protecting Germ Cell Fate. Nature Reviews Mol Cell Biol 16(7), 406-416. Read Abstract
  • Kelly, AL, Senter-Zapata, MJ, Campbell, AC, Lust, HE, Theriault, ME, Andralojc, KM, & Updike, DL. (2015) A forward genetic screen for suppressors of somatic P granules in C. elegans. G3. Read Abstract
  • Updike, D.L., Knutson, A.K., Egelhofer, T.A., Campbell, A.C. Strome S. (2014) Germ-granule components prevent somatic development in the C. elegans germline. Curr Biol. 24(9); 970-975. Download file (PDF)
  • Updike, D.L., Hachey, S.J., Kreher, J., Strome, S. (2011) P granules extend the nuclear pore complex environment in the C. elegans germ line. J Cell Biol. 192(6):939-948. Download file (PDF)
  • Updike, D.L., Strome, S. (2010) P Granule Assembly and Function in C. elegans Germ Cells. (review). J Androl. 31(1):53-60. Download file (PDF)
  • Updike, D.L., Strome, S. (2009) A Genome-wide RNAi Screen for Genes that Affect the Stability, Distribution, and Function of P granules in C. elegans. Genetics. 183(4):1397-419. Download file (PDF)
  • Sheaffer, K., Updike, D.L., Mango, S.E. (2008) The Target of Rapamycin Pathway Antagonizes pha-4/FoxA to Control Development and Aging. Curr Biol. 18(18); 1355-64.Download file (PDF)
  • Updike, D.L., Mango, S.E. (2007) Genetic suppressors of C. elegans pha-4/FoxA identify the predicted AAA helicase ruvb-1/RuvB. Genetics. 177(2); 819-833. Download file (PDIKE MANGO – 2007 – GENETIC SUPPRESSORS OF CAENORHABDITIS ELEGANS PHA-4FOXA IDENTIFY THE PREDICTED)
  • Updike, D.L., Mango, S.E. (2006) Temporal Regulation of Foregut Development by HTZ-1/H2A.Z and PHA-4/FoxA. PLoS Genetics. 2(9):1500-1510. Download file (PDF)
  • Kaltenbach, L.S., Updike, D.L., Mango, S.E. (2005) Contribution of the amino and carboxyl termini for PHA-4/FoxA function in Caenorhabditis elegans. Dev Dyn. 234(2):346-54.Download file (PDF)
  • Kominsky, D.J., Brownson, M.P., Updike, D.L. and Thorsness, P.E. (2002) Genetic and biochemical basis for viability of yeast lacking mitochondrial genomes. Genetics. 162(4):1595-604. Download file (PDF)
  • Hanekamp, T., Rebbapragada, I., Fisher, E.M., Seebart, C., Darland, M.R., Coxbill J.A., Updike D.L. and Thorsness, P.E. (2002) Maintenance of mitochondrial morphology is linked to maintenance of the mitochondrial genome in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics. 162(3):1147-56. Download file (PDF)
  • Rochester J.D., Min H., Gajjar G.A., Sharp C.S., Maki N.J., Rollins J.A., Keiper B.D., Graber J.H., Updike D.L. (2022) GLH-1/Vasa repressed neuropeptide expression and drives spermiogenesis in the C. elegans germline. Dev Biol Dec;492:200-211.
  • Spaulding E.L., Feidler A.M., Cook L.A., Updike D.L. (2022) RG/RGG repeats in the C. elegans homologs of Nucleolin and GAR1 contribute to sub-nucleolar phase separation. Nature Communications Nov 3; 13(1):6585.
  • Marnik E.A., Almeida M.V., Cipriani P.G., Chung G., Caspani E., Karaulanov E., Gan H.H., Zinno J., Isolehto I.J., Kielisch F., Butter F., Sharp C.S., Flanagan R.M., Bonnet F.X., Piano F., Ketting R.F., Gunsalus K.C., Updike D.L. (2022) The Caenorhabditis elegans TDRD5/7-like protein, LOTR-1, interacts with the helicase ZNFX-1 to balance epigenetic signals in the germline. PLoS Genetics Jun 3;18(6):e1010245.
  • Phillips C.M., Updike D.L. (2022) Germ granules and gene regulation in the Caenorhabditis elegans germline. Genetics. Mar 3;220(3).
  • Goudeau J., Sharp C.S., Paw J., Savy L., Leonetti M.D., York A.G., Updike D.L., Kenyon C., Ingaramo M. (2021) Split-wrmScarlet and split-sf-GFP: tools for faster, easier fluorescent labeling of endogenous proteins in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics. Apr 15;217(4).

Selected Services

  • 2012 to 2015 — GSBSE Admissions Committee
  • 2013 to 2015 — MDI Bio Lab Seminar Speakers Committee Chair
  • 2014 to 2015 — Intro to Development Foundations Course Lecturer
  • 2014 to 2015 — MDI Bio Lab Outreach Instructor – Developmental Genetics using C. elegans
  • 2016 to present — MDI Bio Lab Outreach Instructor – Genomic Engineering using CRISPR/Cas9
  • 2017 to present — Maine INBRE Program Coordinator

Selected Grants

  • 2013 to 2015 — The role of germ granules in maintaining cellular self renewal and totipotency – from COBRE National Institutes of Health NIGMS
  • 2015 to present — The function of germ granules in maintaining pluripotency in the C. elegans germline from R01 – National Institutes of Health NIGMS

Dissertation Students

Jesse Rochester