University of Dundee

C. elegans a model organism to study human health and disease

My lab uses the roundworm C. elegans to ask basic biological questions. Our studies are facilitated by the simplicity of the organism at the developmental and anatomical level, by the ease of its maintenance, and by the power of forward and reverse genetic procedures. Despite of its simplicity, C. elegans is a multicellular organism that shares many fundamental genetic programs with humans. We are looking for a PhD student that shares our enthusiasm for science.

Our major research interests focus on genome stability and meiosis. We are interested how Holliday Junctions (HJs), cruciform DNA intermediates, are processed during recombination. HJ resolving enzymes were only recently found in animals. My group independently discovered one such enzyme, GEN-1, and we showed that gen-1 mutants are defective in DNA double-strand break repair and DNA damage signalling. Unexpectedly, we found that meiotic recombination requires redundant HJ resolution pathways facilitated by combinations of structure specific nucleases. We collaborated with the David Lilley lab on GEN1 reaction mechanism and structure.

A second avenue of investigation involved a new way of investigating how mutations arise. We used massive C. elegans next generation sequencing in collaboration with the Sanger Institute to uncover the mutational signatures associated with DNA repair deficiencies and treatment with genotoxic agents. Several of the signatures resembled mutational signatures occurring in cancer and inherited disease, thus providing mechanistic insight into their aetiology.

We contributed to the development of quantitative mass spectrometry approaches to measure the dynamic C. elegans proteome during aging and starvation. Using advanced imaging of embryos we visualized the dynamic assembly and turnover of DNA replication factors. Finally, we collaborated to uncover the role of SUMO modification in mitotic and meiotic cell cycles. We recently wrote a joint grant with a Brazilian lab (Marcello Mori) and hope to jointly set up screens with the Dundee drug discovery unit, to find new nematicidal drugs, aiming to ultimately targeting parasitic nematodes.

Since 2011, our manuscripts were cited >2200 times (Google Scholar) and we published 20 research papers and 6 reviews and methods chapters. I have trained 9 PhD students, who are all still in academia. Several former students hold faculty positions. Please have detailed look at our website and please look at our papers by searching for ‘Anton Gartner’ at Pubmed Please contact me in case you are interested in joining my laboratory ( to discuss potential projects.