Identification of caspase modifiers via genetic selection in yeast

Elaine Law’s Masters research literally related to matters of life and death. Elaine investigated apoptosis – the process of programmed cell death. Apoptosis plays a critical role in normal body function by eliminating unwanted and potentially dangerous cells as part of tissue renewal. However, too much cell death can lead to strokes and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Huntington’s disease, while too little cell death has been associated with many forms of cancer and autoimmune diseases. Using yeast as a host and advanced genetic techniques, Elaine studied caspases, a group of proteins that play a key role in cell death. She developed a genetic selection system in yeast for identifying caspase modifiers: proteins that either activate or inhibit caspases. Her research improves understanding of cell death and provides insights about genes that contribute to abnormal patterns of cell death leading to cancer.