Bio-X Graduate Student Fellow

Awarded in 2020
Home Department: Molecular & Cellular Physiology
Faculty Advisors: Miriam Goodman (Molecular & Cellular Physiology), Elizabeth Sattely (Chemical Engineering), Sue Rhee (Carnegie Institution for Science), and Andrew Fire (Pathology and Genetics)

Research Title: Determining the Molecular Targets of Valerian Root Secondary Metabolites and Valproate Using Caenorhabditis elegans

Research Description: Medicinal plants have been and continue to be valuable sources for drug discovery. For centuries, humans have relied on Valeriana officinalis (valerian), a flowering plant native to Europe and Asia, to treat sleep disorders, restlessness, and anxiety. Valproate, a compound derived from valerian, is widely prescribed as a mood-stabilizer and anticonvulsant. However, the mechanisms by which valerian and valproic acid engage with the nervous and endocrine systems to influence well-being are poorly understood. To identify their molecular targets, Lucero will be using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a bioassay and genetic tool to determine the molecular targets of valerian extracts and valproate, which will provide insights for developing targeted therapeutics to treat mental illnesses. This research will combine plant chemistry and biology with genetic and molecular analysis.