Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chairperson

Dr. Jessica Sullivan Brown, PhD

Committee Member

Erin Gestl, PhD

Committee Member

Eric Sweet, PhD


Neural tube development, which gives rise to the central nervous system, is vital to embryonic development. Neural tube defects, like spina bifida, are serious and common congenital defects which can result in life-long medical complications. Folic acid has been used as a preventative measure for neural tube defects and has appeared to decrease the occurrences of neural tube defects. However, the mechanism behind folic acid’s role in neural tube development is unclear. Furthermore, some evidence suggests that ethanol decreases the levels of folates and folate coenzymes in the fetal brain and downregulates folic acid metabolism genes. To better understand the connections between ethanol, folic acid, and neural tube defects, we are using the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans as a model system. C. elegans are a good model system for this study because despite lacking a neural tube, cellular processes involved in neural tube development are conserved. Upon the introduction of ethanol to reproductive worms, my data indicate there was an increase in the embryonic lethality and a decrease in the brood sizes of the worms. We show that around the embryonic elongation stage some worm embryos born from worms exposed to ethanol cease development. We also provide evidence that in these ethanol exposed worms, cell migration of the endoderm may be affected but intestinal cell fate is not. Through studying the movements of the cells during development we hope to be able to uncover specific cellular events that are affected upon exposure to ethanol.