Meera V. Sundaram, Ph.D

faculty photo
Professor of Genetics
Department: Genetics
Graduate Group Affiliations

Contact information
446A Clinical Research Building
415 Curie Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6145
B.A. (Biology)
Mount Holyoke College, 1986.
Ph.D. (Molecular Biology)
Princeton University, 1993.
Permanent link
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Description of Research Expertise

Research Interests
Tube development and epithelial matrix biology in C. elegans

Key words: C. elegans, signaling, genetics, cell biology, epithelia, matrix.

Description of Research
Our lab’s research utilizes the nematode C. elegans as a model system for studying the cell biology and developmental roles of the apical extracellular matrix (aECM). This matrix fills and shapes tube lumens, protects the animal from pathogens and other environmental insults, and forms complex structures that decorate the animal’s surface.

Apical Extracellular Matrix
  Most tubes secrete various proteoglycans, glycoproteins and lipoproteins into their developing lumens. Examples in mammals include the vascular glycocalyx, lung surfactant, and the mucus-rich linings of the gut and upper airway. There is a growing appreciation of the importance of this luminal aECM in development and disease. However, aECMs are very difficult to visualize and study in most systems because they are transparent by light microscopy and destroyed by most standard fixation approaches used for immunofluorescence.
    We’ve identified components of an early C. elegans aECM that shapes developing epithelia, including tubes of various sizes. Many of these components belong to conserved protein families (e.g. collagens, ZP proteins, lipocalins) also found in mammalian ECMs. We can visualize these components in live worms using fluorescent tags inserted into the endogenous loci. Our foundational studies have shown that this matrix is extremely complex and dynamic, and that different cell types produce and assemble different types of matrix. Some matrix proteins form complex substructures such as luminal cones, furrows, or ridges on epidermal surfaces. We are studying how the various components traffic to their correct locations and assemble to form these beautiful patterns.

Lab personnel
Prioty Sarwar (postdoctoral fellow)
Helen Schmidt (postdoctoral fellow)
Nick Serra (postdoctoral fellow)
Chelsea Darwin (research specialist)

Postions Open
Contact Meera for details

Selected Publications

Sundaram, M.V. and Pujol, N: The Caenorhabditis elegans cuticle and pre-cuticle: models for studying dynamic apical extracellular matrices in vivo [review] Genetics in press, July 2024.

Serra, N.D., Darwin, C.B., Sundaram, M.V. : C. elegans Hedgehog-related proteins are tissue- and substructure-specific components of the cuticle and pre-cuticle. Genetics in press, July 2024.

Susanna K Birnbaum, Jennifer D Cohen, Alexandra Belfi, John I Murray, Jennifer R G Adams, Andrew D Chisholm, Meera V Sundaram : The proprotein convertase BLI-4 promotes collagen secretion prior to assembly of the Caenorhabditis elegans cuticle. PLoS Genetics 19(9): e1010944, Sept 2023.

Sophie S. Katz*, Trevor J. Barker*, Hannah M. Maul-Newby, Alessandro P. Sparacio, Ken C.Q. Nguyen, Chloe L. Maybrun, Alexandra Belfi, Jennifer D. Cohen, David H. Hall, Meera V. Sundaram^, Alison R. Frand^ *co-first authors; ^co-corresponding authors: A transient apical extracellular matrix relays cytoskeletal patterns to shape permanent acellular ridges on the surface of adult C. elegans PLoS Genetics 18(8): e1010348, Aug 2022.

Jennifer D Cohen, Alessandro P Sparacio, Alexandra C Belfi, Rachel Forman-Rubinsky, David H Hall, Hannah Maul-Newby, Alison R Frand, Meera V Sundaram : A multi-layered and dynamic apical extracellular matrix shapes the vulva lumen in Caenorhabditis elegans. eLife Page: doi: 10.7554/eLife.57874, Sept 2020.

Soulavie, F., Hall, D.H., Sundaram, M.V.: The AFF-1 exoplasmic fusogen is required for endocytic scission and seamless tube elongation. Nature Communications 9(1): 1741, May 2018.

Sundaram, M.V. and Cohen, J.D.: Time to make the doughnuts: Building and shaping seamless tubes. Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology 67: 123-131, July 2017.

Gill, H.K.*, Cohen, J.D.*, Ayala-Figueroa, J., Forman-Rubinsky, R., Poggioli, C., Bickard, K., Parry, J.M., Pu P., Hall, D.H. and Sundaram, M.V.: Integrity of narrow epithelial tubes in the C. elegans excretory system requires a transient luminal matrix PLoS Genetics 12(8): e1006205, August 2016.

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Last updated: 06/10/2024
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