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- Maturation of Endothermic Capacity within the Avian Developmental Spectrum: A Characterization of Thermoregulatory Metamorphosis
- An avian embryo is ectothermic, with body temperature determined by environmental temperature. Upon hatching, the neonate begins a conversion so that endothermic capacity becomes feasible and body temperature becomes independent of environment. Whole animal metabolic rate and ventilation response, cardiovascular development, and maturation of muscle mitochondrial flux were the focus of this dissertation because of the direct role in shivering thermogenesis. Precocial ducks and altricial Double-crested Cormorants exhibit increasing hematocrit and disproportionate increases in fractional heart mass resulting in greater oxygen delivery capacity and increased capacity of muscles to utilize oxygen compared with ectothermic American Alligator and Common Snapping turtles. By selecting for faster growth and higher meat yield in the domestic chicken, differences in whole-animal, tissue, cellular, and regulatory responses are evident between broiler and layer type birds. In the altricial red-winged blackbird, despite appearance of a whole animal endothermic response sometime after 7 dph, capacity of skeletal muscles involved in shivering thermogenesis peaks prior to that time. Thus, full development of endothermy is delayed in this species, allowing the altricial nestling to allocate energy towards growth rather than metabolic maintenance. Hypothyroidism in neonate red-winged blackbirds results in delayed maturation of the cardiovascular system and mitochondrial oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle. Such deficiencies were quickly recovered once the animals returned to a normothyroid state, apparently at the cost of increasing body mass. Insights into onset of thermoregulation provide a more thorough understanding of metabolic and physical transitions a hatchling bird must undergo to reach the adult endothermic phenotype. Endothermic capacity will continue to be at the forefront of physiological research because of the significance of changes between the energetic relations of an animal that must occur with its environment.
- Cytochrome P450 Gene Expression Modulates Anoxia Sensitivity in Caenorhabditis Elegans
- With an increasing population suffering from obesity or Diabetes Mellitus (DM), it is more pertinent than ever to understand how physiological changes impact cellular processes. Patients with DM often suffer from obesity, hyperglycemia, altered fatty acids that contribute to vascular dysfunction, and increased risk to ischemia. Caenorhabditis elegans is a model system used to study the conserved insulin signaling pathway, cellular responses in whole organisms and the impact a glucose diet has on oxygen deprivation (anoxia) responses. RNA-sequencing (RNA-Seq) was used to analyze the expression of genes in the anoxia sensitive populations of N2 (wild-type) fed glucose and hyl-2(tm2031), a mutant with altered ceramide metabolism. Comparison of the altered transcripts in the anoxia sensitive populations revealed 199 common transcripts- 192 upregulated and 7 downregulated. One of the gene families that have altered expression in the anoxia sensitive populations encode for Cytochrome P450 (CYP). CYPs are located both in the mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum (ER), but the CYPs of interest are all predicted to be mainly subcellularly localized to the ER. Here, I determined that knock-down of specific cyp genes, using RNA interference (RNAi), increased anoxia survival in N2 animals fed a standard diet. Anoxia sensitivity of the hyl-2(tm2031) animals was supressed by RNAi of cyp-25A1 or cyp-33C8 genes. These studies provide evidence that the CYP detoxification system impacts oxygen deprivation responses. using hsp-4::GFP animals, a transcriptional reporter for ER unfolded protein response (UPR), I further investigated the impact of cyp knock-down, glucose, and anoxia on ER UPR due to the prediction of CYP-33C8 localization to the ER. Glucose significantly increased ER UPR and cyp knock-down non-significantly increased ER UPR. Measurements of ER UPR due to anoxia were made difficult, but representative images show an increase in ER stress post 9-hour anoxia exposure. This study provides evidence that glucose affects ER stress and that ER stress is involved in oxygen deprivation responses.
- Residential Grid-Connected Photovoltaics Adoption in North Central Texas: Lessons from the Solarize Plano Project
- Residential Grid-Connected Photovoltaics (GPV) systems hold remarkable promise in their potential to reduce energy use, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy costs to consumers, while also providing grid efficiency and demand-side management benefits to utilities. Broader adoption of customer-sited GPV also has the potential to transform the traditional model of electricity generation and delivery. Interest and activity has grown in recent years to promote GPV in north central Texas. This study employs a mixed methods design to better understand the status of residential GPV adoption in the DFW area, and those factors influencing a homeowner's decision of whether or not to install a system. Basic metrics are summarized, including installation numbers, distribution and socio-demographic information for the case study city of Plano, the DFW region, Texas, and the United States. Qualitative interview methods are used to gain an in-depth understanding of the factors influencing adoption for the Solarize Plano case study participants; to evaluate the effectiveness of the Solarize Plano program; and to identify concepts that may be regionally relevant. Recommendations are presented for additional research that may advance GPV adoption in north central Texas.
- Identification of a Potential Factor Affecting Graduation Rates in STEM for Hispanic Students at the University of North Texas, via Analysis of Nonfiction Science Books in Spanish Language for ELLs in the Dallas ISD Schools
- Latinos are the largest minority group in the U.S.; however despite the continuous growth of the Hispanic population, Latinos are severely underrepresented in STEM fields. One of the reasons that might explain why Latinos do not major in STEM is the way they encounter science curriculum in primary school. Students' limited proficiency in English may constrain their science achievement when instruction is delivered exclusively in English. A quantitative analysis with graduation rates in STEM from 2009 to 2014 at the University of North Texas was conducted, finding that there is a significant difference (p<0.05) in the number of bachelor's degrees in STEM between Hispanic, White, African American and other student populations. Interviews with teachers, librarians and publishing companies were performed to describe the limited science literature in Spanish at the Dallas ISD schools. Improving science literacy by teaching according to ELLs' linguistic skills and culture may lead to a better understanding of science curriculum throughout their education, which may translate into higher college graduation rates by Hispanic recipients in STEM.
- Respiratory Responses in the Freshwater Snail (Pomacea Bridgesii) are Differently Affected by Temperature , Body Mass,and Oxygen Avalability
- Pomacea bridgesii is a snail species native to tropical and sub-tropical regions, where it usually faces variability in water, temperature and oxygen level. This study of the effect of temperature on mass-specific oxygen consumption (ṀO2) and its relation to body weight shows that the ṀO2 of juvenile snails in normoxia (18-21 kPa) acclimated at temperature of 25°C ranged from 5 to 58 µMol O2/g/h, with a mean of 41.4 ± 18.3 µMol O2/g/h (n=7). Adult snails in normoxia at 25°C show less variation, ranging from 13 to 23 µMol O2/g/h , with a mean of 24.4± 6.1 µMol O2/g/h (n=12). The Q10 value for juvenile snails was higher in the interval 25-30°C (Q 10=5.74) than in the interval 20-25°C (Q10= 0.286). In adult snails, Q10 was higher in the interval 20-25°C (Q10=3.19). ṀO2 of P. bridgesii in relation to body weight showed a negative linear correlation between metabolic rate and body weight with b values between 0.23 and 0.76. Also, both juvenile and adult snails exhibited weak O2 regulation. In general, the different respiratory characteristics between juvenile and adult snails might be related to the differences of individual life history, which caused them to perform differently in face of temperatures change. Additionally, Pomacean snails species originated in tropical habitats where there is a lack of thermal fluctuation. For this reason, Pomacean snails may be less likely to have evolved effective thermal acclimation capabilities.
- Presence of Wolbachia, A Potential Biocontrol Agent: Screening for Vertebrate Blood Meal Source and West Nile Virus in Mosquitoes in the North Texas Region
- West Nile virus (WNV) is a geographically endemic mosquito-borne flavivirus that has spread across the United States infecting birds, mosquitos, humans, horses and other mammals. The wide spread nature of this virus is due to the ability of the mosquito vector to persist in broad, ecological diverse environments across the United States. In this study, mosquito populations in North Texas region were sampled for detection of Wolbachia, blood meal source, and WNV. The ultimate goal of this study was to examine the potential of a biocontrol agent, Wolbachia sp. that colonizes the hindgut of various insects, including mosquitos, as a natural means to interrupt virus transmission from mosquitos to other hosts, including humans. In Australia, Wolbachia sp. from fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) have been successfully used to block transmission of a similar pathogenic virus from mosquitos responsible for transmission of Dengue fever. Here, mosquitoes were collected using CDC style Gravid Traps in Denton, Texas, from October 2012 through September 2014. Collected mosquitoes were identified, sexed, and categorized as to the amount of host blood in their alimentary system using a Zeiss Axio Zoom microscope (Carl Zeiss Microscopy, LLC, Thornwood, NY). Culex quinquefaciatus was the dominant blood engorged species collected. Smaller populations of Culex tarsalis and Aedes albopictus, another known vector for WNV were also collected. Mosquito larva were also collected from the UNT water research field station and reared to adults. Cx. tarsalis was the dominant mosquito taken from this habitat. Samples of Cx. quinquefasciatus, Cx. tarsalis and A. albopictus were analyzed for Wolbachia sp. and to identify host blood in the mosquito alimentary system. Total DNA extraction from the pool of mosquito samples was by both commercially available DNA extraction kits (Qiagen, Valencia, CA) and salt extraction technique. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to amplify and identify Wolbachia sp. 16SrDNA and mitochondrial DNA from vertebrate blood. The maternally inherited endosymbiont, Wolbachia, were found to be uniformly distributed across the mosquitoes sampled in this study. Blood meal analysis by PCR showed that Cx. quinquefaciatus fed more on birds than on mammalian blood sources based on the previously developed primers used in this study.
- Glucose and Altered Ceramide Biosynthesis Impact the Transcriptome and the Lipidome of Caenorhabditis elegans
- The worldwide rise of diabetes and obesity has spurred research investigating the molecular mechanisms that mediate the deleterious effects associated with these diseases. Individuals with diabetes and/or obesity are at increased risk from a variety of health consequences, including heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease; all of these complications have oxygen deprivation as the central component of their pathology. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been established as a model system for understanding the genetic and molecular regulation of oxygen deprivation response, and in recent years methods have been developed to study the effects of excess glucose and altered lipid homeostasis. Using C. elegans, I investigated transcriptomic profiles of wild-type and hyl-2(tm2031) ( a ceramide biosynthesis mutant) animals fed a standard or a glucose supplemented diet. I then completed a pilot RNAi screen of differentially regulated genes and found that genes involved in the endobiotic detoxification pathway (ugt-63 and cyp-25A1) modulate anoxia response. I then used a lipidomic approach to determine whether glucose feeding or mutations in the ceramide biosynthesis pathway or the insulin-like signaling pathway impact lipid profiles. I found that gluocose alters the lipid profile of daf-2(e1370) (an insulin-like receptor mutant) animals. These studies indicate that a transcriptomic approach can be used to discover novel pathways involved in oxygen deprivation response and further validate C. elegans as a model for understanding diabetes and obesity.
- Influence of a Human Lipodystrophy Gene Homologue on Neutral Lipid Accumulation in Arabidopsis Leaves
- CGI-58 is the defective gene in the human neutral lipid storage disease called Chanarin-Dorfman syndrome. This disorder causes intracellular lipid droplets to accumulate in nonadipose tissues, such as skin and blood cells. Here, disruption of the homologous CGI-58 gene in Arabidopsis thaliana resulted in the accumulation of neutral lipid droplets in mature leaves. Mass spectroscopy of isolated lipid droplets from cgi-58 loss-of-function mutants showed they contain triacylglycerols with common leaf specific fatty acids. Leaves of mature cgi-58 plants exhibited a marked increase in absolute triacylglycerol levels, more than 10-fold higher than in wild-type plants. Lipid levels in the oil-storing seeds of cgi-58 loss-of-function plants were unchanged, and unlike mutations in beta-oxidation, the cgi-58 seeds germinated and grew normally, requiring no rescue with sucrose. We conclude that the participation of CGI-58 in neutral lipid homeostasis of nonfat-storing tissues is similar, although not identical, between plant and animal species. This unique insight may have implications for designing a new generation of technologies that enhance the neutral lipid content and composition of corp plants.
- Biodiversity and Genetic Structure of Benthic Macroinvertebrates along an Altitudinal Gradient: A Comparison of the Windhond and Róbalo River Communities on Navarino Island, Chile
- Altitudinal gradients in Sub-Antarctic freshwater systems present unique opportunities to study the effect of distinct environmental gradients on benthic macroinvertebrate community composition and dispersal. This study investigates patterns in biodiversity, dispersal and population genetic structure of benthic macroinvertebrate fauna across an altitudinal gradient between two watersheds on Navarino Island in southern Chile. Patterns in diversity, density, evenness and functional feeding groups were not significantly different across the altitudinal gradient in both the Windhond and Róbalo Rivers. Taxa richness in both rivers generally increased from the headwaters of the river to the mouth, and functional feeding group patterns were consistent with the predictions of the River Continuum Concept. Population genetic structure and gene flow was investigated by sampling the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene in two invertebrate species with different dispersal strategies. Hyalella simplex (Amphipoda) is an obligate aquatic species, and Meridialaris chiloeense (Ephemeroptera) is an aquatic larvae and a terrestrial winged adult. Contrasting patterns of population genetic structure were observed. Results for Hyalella simplex indicate significant differentiation in genetic structure in the Amphipod populations between watersheds and lower genetic diversity in the Róbalo River samples, which may be a result of instream dispersal barriers. Meridialaris chiloeense exhibited weak population structure but higher genetic diversity, which suggests this species is able to disperse widely as a winged adult.
- The Effects of Neonicotinoid Exposure on Embryonic Development and Organ Mass in Northern Bobwhite Quail
- Since their emergence in the early 1990s, neonicotinoid use has increased exponentially to make them the world's most prevalent insecticides. Although there is considerable research concerning the lethality of neonicotinoids, their sub-lethal and developmental effects are still being explored, especially with regards to non-mammalian species. The goal of this research was to investigate the effects of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid on the morphological and physiological development of northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus). Bobwhite eggs (n = 650) were injected with imidacloprid concentrations of 0 (sham), 10, 50, 100 and 150 grams per kilogram of egg mass, which was administered at day 0 (pre-incubation), 3, 6, 9, or 12 of growth. Embryos were dissected on day 19 when they were weighed, staged, and examined for any overt structural deformities. Embryonic heart, liver, lungs and kidneys were also weighed and preserved for future use. Treated embryos exhibited increased frequency of severely deformed beaks and legs, as well as larger hearts and smaller lungs at the higher dosing concentrations. Some impacts are more pronounced in specific dosing periods, implying that there may be critical windows of development when embryos are highly susceptible to neonicotinoid exposure. This investigation suggests that imidacloprid could play a significant role in chick survival and declining quail populations in treated regions of the country.
- The Influence of Urban Green Spaces on Declining Bumble Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae)
- Bumble bees (Bombus spp.) are adept pollinators of countless cultivated and wild flowering plants, but many species have experienced declines in recent decades. Though urban sprawl has been implicated as a driving force of such losses, urban green spaces hold the potential to serve as habitat islands for bumble bees. As human populations continue to grow and metropolitan areas become larger, the survival of many bumble bee species will hinge on the identification and implementation of appropriate conservation measures at regional and finer scales. North Texas is home to some the fastest-growing urban areas in the country, including Denton County, as well as at least two declining bumble bee species (B. pensylvanicus and B. fraternus). Using a combination of field , molevular DNA and GIS methods I evaluated the persistence of historic bumble bee species in Denton County, and investigated the genetic structure and connectivity of the populations in these spaces. Field sampling resulted in the discovery of both B. pensylvanicus and B. fraternus in Denton County's urban green spaces. While the relative abundance of B. fraternus in these spaces was significantly lower than historic levels gleaned from museum recors, that of B. pensylvanicus was significantly higher. Statistical analyses found that both bare ground and tree cover surrounding sample sites were negatively associated with numbers of bumble bee individuals and hives detected in these green spaces. Additionally, limited genetic structuring of bumble bee populations was detected, leading to the conclusion that extensive gene flow is occurring across populations in Denton County.
- Informing Conservation Management Using Genetic Approaches: Greater Sage-grouse and Galápagos Short-eared Owls as Case Studies
- Small isolated populations are of particular conservation interest due to their increased extinction risk. This dissertation investigates two small wild bird populations using genetic approaches to inform their conservation. Specifically, one case study investigated a Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) population located in northwest Wyoming near Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. Microsatellite data showed that the Jackson sage-grouse population possessed significantly reduced levels of neutral genetic diversity and was isolated from other Wyoming populations. Analysis with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and microsatellite data provided further evidence that the population's timing of isolation was relatively recent and most likely due to recent anthropogenic habitat changes. Conservation recommendations include maintaining or increasing the population's current size and reestablishing gene flow with the nearest large population. The second case study investigated the genetic distinctiveness of the Floreana island population of the Galápagos Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus galapagoensis). Mitochondrial DNA sequence data did not detect differences across nine island populations, yet microsatellite and morphometric data indicated that limited gene flow existed with the population and surrounding island populations, which appeared asymmetric in direction from Floreana to Santa Cruz with no indication of gene flow into Floreana. These results have important conservation implications and recommend that the Floreana Short-eared Owl population be held in captivity during the rodenticide application planned for an ecosystem restoration project in 2018. The population is less likely to receive immigrants from surrounding island populations if negatively effected by feeding on poisoned rodents.
- Genetic Characterization of Central and South American Populations of Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao)
- The wild populations of the Scarlet Macaw subspecies native to southern Mexico and Central America, A. m. cyanoptera, have been drastically reduced over the last half century and are now a major concern to local governments and conservation groups. Programs to rebuild these local populations using captive bred specimens must be careful to reintroduce the native A. m. cyanoptera, as opposed to the South American nominate subspecies (A. m. macao) or hybrids of the two subspecies. Molecular markers for comparative genomic analyses are needed for definitive differentiation. Here I describe the isolation and sequence analysis of multiple loci from 7 pedigreed A. m. macao and 14 pedigreed A. m. cyanoptera specimens. The loci analyzed include the 18S rDNA genes, the complete mitogenome as well as intronic regions of selected autosomally-encoded genes. Although the multicopy18S gene sequences exhibited 10% polymorphism within all A. macao genomes, no differences were observed between any of the 21 birds whose genomes were studied. In contrast, numerous polymorphic sites were observed throughout the 16,993 bp mitochondrial genomes of both subspecies. Although much of the polymorphism was observed in the genomes of both subspecies, subspecies-specific alleles were observed at a number of mitochondrial loci, including 12S, 16S, CO2 and ND3. Evidence of possible subspecies-specific alleles were also found in three of four screened nuclear loci. Collectively, these mitochondrial and nuclear loci can be used as the basis to distinguish A. m. cyanoptera from the nominate subspecies, A. m. macao, as well as identify many hybrids, and most importantly will contribute to further reintroduction efforts.
- The Effect of Post-exercise Ethanol Consumption on the Acute Hormonal Response to Heavy Resistance Exercise in Women
- The purpose of this study was to examine the hormonal response to acute ethanol ingestion following a bout of heavy resistance exercise in women. Eight resistance trained women completed two identical acute heavy resistance exercise tasks (AHRET). From 10-20 minutes post-AHRET, participants consumed either a grain ethanol or a placebo beverage. Blood was collected before (PRE) and immediately after the AHRET (IP) and then every 20 minutes for five hours. Blood collected after beverage ingestion was pooled into 3 batches (phases: 20-40 minutes, 60-120 minutes, and 140-300 minutes post-exercise) and analyzed for serum total testosterone (TT), free testosterone (FT), insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), human growth hormone (GH), cortisol (COR), and estradiol (E2) concentrations. Circulating concentrations of TT were significantly greater at P20-40 than at PRE, P60-120, and P140-300. Circulating concentrations of FT were significantly greater at P20-40 than at all other times. Circulating concentrations of GH were significantly greater at IP than at PRE, P60-120, and P140-300. Circulating concentrations of COR were significantly greater at P20-40 than at all other times. Additionally, COR concentrations at P140-300 were significantly lower than at all other times. Circulating concentrations of IGF-1 were significantly greater at P20-40 than at P60-120 and P140-300. Circulating concentrations of E2 were significantly greater at P20-40 than at all other times. In summary, the present study demonstrated an acute modulation of the neuroendocrine milieu following a heavy resistance exercise bout in women. Ethanol ingestion appeared to have no significant effect on the characteristics of acute hormonal augmentation in TT, FT, GH, COR, IGF-1, or E2.
- Role of Gpr17 in Thrombocyte Aggregation in Adult Zebrafish
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GPR17, a uracil nucleotide cysteinyl leukotriene receptor, belongs to the GPCR (G protein coupled receptor) family. It has been shown recently that inhibiting this protein in the nervous system in mice can lead to blockage of oligodendrocyte maturation, which supports myelin repair. Interestingly, our laboratory found GPR17 in thrombocytes. However, we do not know whether it has any function in thrombocyte aggregation or the nature of the ligand. In this paper, we studied the role of GPR17 in hemostasis, which is a fundamental defense mechanism in the event of injury. Using zebrafish as a model system, our laboratory has studied specifically thrombocytes, which play a significant role in hemostasis. The major reasons to use zebrafish as a model system are that their thrombocytes are functionally equivalent to human platelets, the adult fish are amenable to knockdown experiments, and they are readily available in the market. This study was performed by using a piggy back knockdown method where we used a chemical hybrid of control morpholino and an antisense oligonucleotide sequence leads to the degradation the mRNA for GPR17. After knockdown GPR17 in thrombocytes, the percent difference of the thrombocytes aggregation between the control and knockdown blood samples was measured by flow cytometry. We used various thrombocyte agonists to study differences in aggregation between the control and knockdown blood samples. The study showed that knockdown of GPR17 resulted in no significant differences in percent thrombocyte aggregation between control and agonist treated samples except for a slight increase in collagen-treated samples. Thus, it appears that GPR17 has no significant role in hemostasis.
- The Role of Cysteinyl Leukotriene Receptor 2 in Thrombocyte Aggregation
- Cysteinyl leukotriene receptor 2, a G-protein coupled receptor known to be expressed and functional on human platelets. However, it seems that upon ligand activation the cysteinyl leukotriene receptor 2 activates a variety of signaling pathways in multiple cell types among different species. Previously, a former laboratory member Vrinda Kulkarni found cysteinyl leukotriene receptor 2 to be expressed on the surface of adult zebrafish thrombocytes. In this work I studied the characteristics of aggregation in adult zebrafish thrombocytes with the knockdown of cysteinyl leukotriene receptor 2. I used a newly developed knockdown method to study the function of cysteinyl leukotriene receptor 2. Knockdown of the cysteinyl leukotriene was confirmed using RT-PCR results showed p=.001, reduced sell surface level of expression of the cysteinyl leukotriene receptor 2 results showed that p=.002. I found that the knockdown of cysteinyl leukotriene receptor 2 results in prothrombotic thrombocytes by using flow cytometry p=.0001.
- Environmental Modulation of the Onset of Air-breathing of the Siamese Fighting Fish and the Blue Gourami
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This study determined the effect of hypoxia on air-breathing onset and physiological and morphological characters in larvae of the air breathing fishes Trichopodus trichopterus and Betta splendens. Larvae were exposed intermittently (12/12 h daily) to 20, 17, and 14 kPa of PO2 from 1 to 40 days post-fertilization. Survival, onset of air breathing, wet body mass, O2, Pcrit were measured every 5 dpf. Hypoxia advanced by 4 days, and delayed by 9 days, the onset of air breathing in Betta and Trichopodus, respectively. Hypoxia increased larval body length, wet mass, and labyrinth organ respiratory surface of Betta, but did not affect these factors in Trichopodus. Hypoxic exposure increased O2 by 50-100% at each day throughout larval development in Betta, but had no effect on larval Trichopodus. Hypoxia decreased Pcrit in Betta by 37%, but increased Pcrit in Trichopodus by 70%. Larval Betta reared in hypoxia showed a modified heart rate:opercular rate ratio (3:1 to 2:1), but these changes did not occur in Trichopodus. Compared to Betta, the blood of Trichopodus had a higher P50 and much smaller Bohr and Root effects. These interspecific differences are likely due to ecophysiological differences: Betta is a non- obligatory air-breather after 36 dpf with a slow lifestyle reflected in its low metabolism, while Trichopodus is an obligatory air-breather past 32 dpf with an athletic fast lifestyle and accompanying high metabolism.
- Identification of Hox Genes Controlling Thrombopoiesis in Zebrafish
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Thrombocytes are functional equivalents of mammalian platelets and also possess megakaryocyte features. It has been shown earlier that hox genes play a role in megakaryocyte development. Our earlier microarray analysis showed five hox genes, hoxa10b, hoxb2a, hoxc5a, hoxc11b and hoxd3a, were upregulated in zebrafish thrombocytes. However, there is no comprehensive study of genome wide scan of all the hox genes playing a role in megakaryopoiesis. I first measured the expression levels of each of these hox genes in young and mature thrombocytes and observed that all the above hox genes except hoxc11b were expressed equally in both populations of thrombocytes. hoxc11b was expressed only in young thrombocytes and not in mature thrombocytes. The goals of my study were to comprehensively knockdown hox genes and identify the specific hox genes involved in the development of thrombocytes in zebrafish. However, the existing vivo-morpholino knockdown technology was not capable of performing such genome-wide knockdowns. Therefore, I developed a novel cost- effective knockdown method by designing an antisense oligonucleotides against the target mRNA and piggybacking with standard control morpholino to silence the gene of interest. Also, to perform knockdowns of the hox genes and test for the number of thrombocytes, the available techniques were both cumbersome or required breeding and production of fish where thrombocytes are GFP labeled. Therefore, I established a flow cytometry based method of counting the number of thrombocytes. I used mepacrine to fluorescently label the blood cells and used the white cell fraction. Standard antisense oligonucleotide designed to the central portion of each of the target hox mRNAs, was piggybacked by a control morpholino and intravenously injected into the adult zebrafish. The thrombocyte count was measured 48 hours post injection. In this study, I found that the knockdown of hoxc11b resulted in increased number of thrombocytes and knockdown of hoxa10b, hoxb2a, hoxc5a, and hoxd3a showed reduction in the thrombocyte counts. I then screened the other 47 hox genes in the zebrafish genome using flow sorting method and found that knockdown of hoxa9a and hoxb1a also resulted in decreased thrombocyte number. Further, I used the dye DiI, which labels only young thrombocytes at specific concentrations and observed that the knockdown of hoxa10b, hoxb2a, hoxc5a, hoxd3a, hoxa9a and hoxb1a, lead to a decrease in young thrombocytes; whereas hoxc11b knockdown lead to increase in number of young thrombocytes. Using bromodeoxyuridine, I also showed that there is increase in release of young thrombocytes into peripheral circulation in hoxc11b knockdown fish which suggests that hoxc11b significantly promotes cell proliferation rather effecting apoptosis. In conclusion, I found six hox genes that are positive regulators and one hox gene is a negative regulator for thrombocyte development.
- Identification of Genes Involved in Flocculation by Whole Genome Sequencing of Thauera Aminoaromatica Strain Mz1t Floc-defective Mutants
- Thauera aminoaromatica MZ1T, a floc-forming bacterium isolated from an industrial activated sludge wastewater treatment plant, overproduces exopolysaccharide (EPS) leading to viscous bulking. This phenomenon results in poor sludge settling and dewatering during the clarification process. To identify genes responsible for bacterial flocculation, a whole genome phenotypic sequencing technique was applied. Genomic DNA of MZ1T flocculation-deficient mutants were subjected to massively parallel sequencing. The resultant high-quality reads were assembled and compared to the reference genome of the wild type genome. We identified nine nonsynonymous mutations and one nonsense mutation putatively involved in EPS biosynthesis. Complementation of the nonsense mutation located in an EPS deacetylase gene restored the flocculating phenotype. The FTIR spectra of EPS isolated from the wild-type showed reduced C=O peak of the N-acetyl group at 1665 cm-1 as compared to the spectra of MZ1T floc-deficient mutant EPS, suggesting that the WT EPS was partially deacetylated. Gene expression analysis also demonstrated the deacetylase gene transcript increased before flocculation occurred. The results suggest that the deacetylation of MZ1T EPS is crucial for flocculation. The information obtained from this study will be useful for preventing viscous bulking and wastewater treatment system failure, and may have potential applications in the biotechnology sector for the controlled removal of cells.
- Identification and Characterization of an Arabidopsis Thaliana Mutant with Tolerance to N-lauroylethanolamime
- N-Acylethanolamines (NAEs) are fatty acid derivatives in plants that negatively influence seedling growth. N-Lauroylethanolamine (NAE 12:0), one type of NAE, inhibits root length, increases radial swelling of root tips and reduces root hair numbers in a dose dependent manner in Arabidopis thaliana L. (ecotype Columbia). A forward genetics approach was employed by screening a population of T-DNA “activation-tagged” developed by the Salk Institute lines for NAE resistance to identify potential genes involved in NAE signaling events in Arabidopsis thaliana L. (ecotype Columbia). Seeds of the activation tagged lines were grown at 0, 25, 30, 50, 75 and 100 µM N-lauroylethanolamime (NAE 12:0). Ten plants which displayed NAE tolerance (NRA) seedling phenotypes, compared with wildtype (Columbia, Col-0) seedlings were identified. I focused on one mutant line, identified as NRA 25, where the tolerance to NAE 12:0 appears to be mediated by a single dominant, nuclear gene. Thermal asymmetric interlaced (TAIL) PCR identified the location of the T-DNA insert as 3.86 kbp upstream of the locus At1g68510. Quantitative PCR indicated that the transcript level corresponding to At1g68510 is upregulated approximately 20 fold in the mutant relative to wildtype. To determine whether the NAE tolerance in NRA 25 is associated with overexpression of At1g68510 I created overexpressing lines of At1g68510 with and without GFP fusions behind the 2X35S CaMV promoter. As predicted, results with overexpressing lines of At1g68510 also exhibited enhanced resistance to NAE when compared with the wildtype. Confocal images of the fusion proteins suggest that GFP-At1g68510 is concentrated in the nucleus and this was confirmed by counterstaining with 4', 6-Diamidino-2-phenylindol (DAPI). Futhermore, At1g68510 overexpressing lines and NRA 25 line also exhibited tolerance to abscisic acid (ABA) during seedling germination. The findings suggests that At1g68510 overexpression mediates seedling tolerance to both ABA and NAE, a mechanism independent of fatty acid amide hydrolase in which its overexpression leads to NAE resistance but hypersensitivity to ABA. The next steps are to identify the association of At1g68510 with specific genomic regions or interacting proteins that may be additional components of NAE signaling in plants.
- Thresholds and Legacy Effects of Tropical Floodplain Fish Assemblages in Response to Flood Attributes
- Natural flow regimes are critical for sustaining biodiversity and river integrity. Floods and droughts form an important component of river systems and control population sizes and species diversity across space and time. Modification of flow regimes, including disruption of the timing, magnitude and duration of flooding, is a global problem, and many new impoundments are planned for large river-floodplain ecosystems in the tropics. Flow modifications may cause dramatic non-linear responses in population sizes and have lasting effects through time, but such topics are poorly investigated over multi-year scales, especially in highly diverse tropical ecosystems. Using a long-term dataset from the Upper Paraná River floodplain, Brazil, I tested for threshold and legacy effects of fish assemblages to flood attributes, such as timing, magnitude, duration, rate of change and variation. Specifically, I hypothesized that long duration, high magnitude floods would elicit threshold responses in long-distance migratory fish species and these responses result in significant legacy effects detectable over multiple years. Consistent positive threshold responses to increasing flood duration and magnitude were detected for many species and not significantly correlated with reproductive guilds. Legacy effects were prevalent (i.e. identified for more than 90% of species) and including flood attributes from previous years increased variance explained in species abundances by 15-20% compared to contemporary flood attributes alone. Contrary to my hypotheses, flood duration did not elicit strong legacy effects and species from the same reproductive guild did not have similar legacy effects models. The prevalence of legacy effects across almost all species in this diverse study system highlights the need to consider such dynamics in other systems. My results provide targets for management and conservation actions, such as environmental flow releases from upstream reservoirs. Environmental flows releases may play a significant role in sustainability of the floodplain and other tropical floodplain ecosystems affected by impoundments.
- Glucose Induces Sensitivity to Oxygen Deprivation and Alters Gene Expression in Caenorhabditis Elegans
- An organisms’ diet represents an exogenous influence that often yields colossal effects on long-term health and disease risk. The overconsumption of dietary sugars for example, has contributed to significant increases in obesity and type-2 diabetes; health issues that are costly both economically and in terms of human life. Individuals who are obese or are type-2 diabetic often have compromised oxygen delivery and an increased vulnerability to oxygen-deprivation related complications, such as ischemic strokes, peripheral arterial disease and myocardial infarction. Thus, it is of interest to identify the molecular changes glucose supplementation or hyperglycemia can induce, which ultimately compromise oxygen deprivation responses. By utilizing the Caenorhabditis elegans genetic model system, which is anoxia tolerant, I determined that a glucose-supplemented diet negatively impacts responses to anoxia and that the insulin-like signaling pathway, through fatty acid and ceramide biosynthesis and antioxidant activity, modulates anoxia survival. Additionally, a glucose-supplemented diet induces lipid accumulation. Use of RNA-sequencing analysis to compare gene expression responses in animals fed either a standard or glucose-supplemented diet revealed that glucose impacts the expression of genes involved with multiple cellular processes including lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, stress responses, cell division, and extracellular functions. Several of the genes we identified are homologous to human genes that are differentially regulated in response to metabolic diseases, suggesting that there may be conserved gene expression responses between C. elegans supplemented with glucose and a diabetic and/or obese state observed in humans. These findings support the utility of C. elegans to model specific aspects of the T2D disease process (e.g., glucose-induced sensitivity to oxygen deprivation) and identify potentially novel regulators of common complications seen in hyperglycemic and T2D patients (e.g., macrovascular complications).
- Metabolism and Action of Polyunsaturated N-acylethanolamines in Arabidopsis Thaliana Seedlings
- The lipoxygenase (LOX) pathway plays an important role in the oxidative metabolism of polyunsaturated N-acylethanolamines (PU-NAEs). The LOX pathway functions in conjugation with hydrolysis by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and to produce oxidized NAEs during seed germination and early seedling development. When Arabidopsis seedlings were grown in low micromolar concentrations of lauroylethanolamide (NAE 12:0), growth retardation and elevated endogenous PU-NAE levels were observed due to the competitive inhibition of LOX by NAE 12:0. The elevated levels of endogenous PU-NAEs were more pronounced in genotypes with reduced NAE hydrolase capacity (faah knockouts), and less evident with overexpression of FAAH. Alterations in PU-NAE metabolism were studied in seedlings of various lox and FAAH mutants. The partitioning of PU-NAEs into oxylipin metabolites was exaggerated in the presence of exogenous linolenoylethanolamide (NAE18:3) and resulted in bleaching of cotyledons. The bleaching phenotype was restricted to a narrow developmental window (3-to-5 days after sowing), and was attributed to a reversible disruption of thylakoid membranes in chloroplasts. Biochemical and genetic evidence suggested that 9-hydro(pero)xy and 13-hydro(pero)xy octadecatrienoylethanolamides (9- and 13-NAE-H(P)OT), but not their corresponding hydro(pero)xy free fatty acids, induced cotyledon bleaching. The LOX-mediated metabolites of NAE18:3 shared some overlapping effects on seedling development with those of linoleoylethanolamide (NAE18:2) such as a reduction in seedling root growth. On the other hand, NAE18:3 oxylipin metabolites also exhibited distinct effects during seedling development such as the inhibition of photomorphogenesis. Biochemical and genetic evidence indicated that a LOX-mediated metabolite of NAE18:2, 9-hydro(pero)xy octadecadienoylethanolamide (9-NAE-H(P)OD), acted as a potent negative regulator of seedling root development, and this depended on an intact abscisic acid (ABA) signaling pathway. Synergistic inhibition of root elongation between 9-NAE-H(P)OD and ABA was restricted to a narrow developmental window (3-to-5 d after sowing) of seedling development. Genetic evidence with Arabidopsis mutants in ABA synthesis (aba1, aba2), perception (pyr1, pyl2, pyl4, pyl5, pyl8) and transcriptional regulation (abi3-1) suggested that negative regulation of growth by 9-NAE-H(P)OD likely was mediated through an increase in ABA synthesis, and this was confirmed biochemically. Induction of a secondary dormancy program in Arabidopsis seedlings by environmental stresses also requires an intact ABA signaling cascade, and our study has shown that this regulatory seedling program is dependent, in large part, on NAE oxylipin formation. Together, results presented here indicated that LOX-mediated metabolites of NAE18:3 and NAE18:2 in Arabidopsis represent a newly-discovered group of bioactive metabolites, and their accumulation during the embryo-to-seedling transition of plant development may act to synchronize seedling establishment with environmental cues.
- Effect of Acute Alcohol Ingestion on Resistance Exercise Induced Mtorc1 Signaling in Human Muscle
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The purpose of this project was to further elucidate the effects post-exercise alcohol ingestion. This project had many novel aspects including using a resistance exercise (RE) only exercise design and the inclusion of women. To our knowledge, we are the first to investigate the effect of post-RE alcohol ingestion in women. In the first chapter of this project, information on the prevalence of alcohol use and the importance of skeletal muscle as a dynamic and metabolic tissue was provided. In chapter two, the effects of post-RE alcohol ingestion in men and women are detailed. The major findings of this study was that although RE elicited similar mTORC1 signaling both in men and in women, alcohol ingestion appeared to only attenuate RE-induced phosphorylation of the mTORC1 signaling pathway in men. The third chapter focused on examining the effects of post-RE alcohol ingestion on acute testosterone bioavailability. The primary findings of this study was that alcohol substantially elevated serum total and free testosterone concentrations during recovery from a bout of resistance exercise. The fourth chapter detailed factors that contribute to bone density in men. The major findings of this study was that young adult male long-distance runners who participated in resistance training at least once per week had greater bone mineral density than their non-resistance trained and non-exercise trained peers.
- Dynamics of Stream Fish Metacommunities in Response to Drought and Reconnectivity
- This dissertation investigates the spatio-temporal dynamics of intermittent stream fish metacommunities in response drought-induced fragmentation and re-connectivity using both field and experimental approaches. A detailed field study was conducted in two streams and included pre-drought, drought, and post-drought hydrological periods. Fish assemblages and metacommunity structure responded strongly to changes in hydrological conditions with dramatic declines in species richness and abundance during prolonged drought. Return of stream flows resulted in a trend toward recovery but ultimately assemblages failed to fully recover. Differential mortality, dispersal, recruitment among species indicates species specific responses to hydrologic fragmentation, connectivity, and habitat refugia. Two manipulative experiments tested the effects of drought conditions on realistic fish assemblages. Fishes responded strongly to drought conditions in which deeper pools acted as refugia, harboring greater numbers of fish. Variability in assemblage structure and movement patterns among stream pools indicated species specific habitat preferences in response predation, resource competition, and desiccation. Connecting stream flows mediated the impacts of drought conditions and metacommunity dynamics in both experiments. Results from field and experimental studies indicate that stream fish metacommunities are influenced by changes in hydrological conditions and that the timing, duration, and magnitude of drought-induced fragmentation and reconnecting stream flows have important consequences metacommunity dynamics.
- Cytotoxicity and Functional Toxicity of Mefloquine and Search for Protective Compounds
- Mefloquine hydrochloride is an antimalarial agent that has been used for the past 40 years. Numerous reports of neurological side effects have recently led the FDA to issue a strong warning regarding long-term neurological effects. This warning lead to the U.S. Army’s Special Forces and other components to discontinue its use in July of 2013. Despite reported adverse side effects, mefloquine remains in circulation and is recommended to travelers going to specific Asian countries. Mefloquine has been used as a treatment for those already infected with the malaria parasite (blood concentrations ranging from 2.1 to 23 µM), and as prophylaxis (blood concentrations averaging 3.8 µM) (Dow 2003). The purpose of this study was to quantify Mefloquine’s toxicity using spontaneously active nerve cell networks growing on microelectrode arrays in vitro and to identify compounds that alleviate or reduce toxic effects. The current literature on mefloquine toxicity is lacking electrophysiological data. These data will contribute to research on the mechanism of adverse side effects associated with mefloquine use. Sequential titration experiments were performed by adding increasing concentrations of mefloquine solution to cultured neurons. Network responses were quantified and reversibility was examined. In each network, activity decreases were normalized as a percent of reference activity yielding a mean IC50 value of 5.97 ± 0.44 (SD) µM (n=6). After total activity loss, no activity was recovered with two successive medium changes. To test for network response desensitization resulting from sequential applications over 5-6 hr periods, one-point titrations at varying concentrations were conducted with fresh networks. These experiments yielded a single concentration response curve with an IC50 value of 2.97 µM. This represents a statistically significant shift (p < 0.0001) to lower concentrations of mefloquine, demonstrating that sequential applications result in network desensitization. After mefloquine exposures, cells were evaluated for irreversible cytotoxic damage. Over a 12-hour period under 6 µM mefloquine, process beading and granulation of somal cytoplasm were observed. At 8 µM mefloquine cell stress was apparent after only 10 minutes with major glial damage and process beading at 120 minutes. In this study, quinolinic acid served as a neuroprotectant at 20 µM. There have been multiple studies on the endogenous concentrations of quinolinic acid and current literature is quite variable. Immunocompromised individuals have some of the highest blood levels of quinolinic acid (up to 20 µM). With 30 min pre-applications of quinolinic acid, the mefloquine IC50 value shifted from 5.97 ± 0.44 µM (n=6), to 9.28 ± 0.55 µM (n=3). This represents a statistically significant change to higher mefloquine concentrations and demonstrates neuroprotection.
- Manipulations of Sucrose/proton Symporters and Proton-pumping Pyrophosphatase Lead to Enhanced Phloem Transport But Have Contrasting Effects on Plant Biomass
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Delivery of photoassimilate, mainly sucrose (Suc) from photoautotrophic source leaves provides the substrate for the growth and maintenance of sink tissues such as roots, storage tissues, flowers and fruits, juvenile organs, and seeds. Phloem loading is the energized process of accumulating solute in the sieve element/companion cell complex of source leaf phloem to generate the hydrostatic pressure that drives long-distance transport. In many plants this is catalyzed by Suc/Proton (H+) symporters (SUTs) which are energized by the proton motive force (PMF). Overexpression of SUTs was tested as means to enhance phloem transport and plant productivity. Phloem specific overexpression of AtSUC2 in wild type (WT) tobacco resulted in enhanced Suc loading and transport, but against the hypothesis, plants were stunted and accumulated carbohydrates in the leaves, possibly due to lack of sufficient energy to support enhanced phloem transport. The energy for SUT mediated phloem loading is provided from the PMF, which is ultimately supplied by the oxidation of a small proportion of the loaded photoassimilates. It was previously shown that inorganic pyrophosphate (PPi) is necessary for this oxidation and overexpressing a proton-pumping pyrophosphatase (AVP1) enhanced both shoot and root growth, and augmented several energized processes like nutrient acquisition and stress responses. We propose that AVP1 localizes to the PM of phloem cells and uses PMF to synthesize PPi rather than hydrolyze it, and in doing so, maintains PPi levels for efficient Suc oxidation and ATP production. Enhanced ATP production in turn strengthens the PMF via plasma membrane (PM) ATPase, increasing phloem energization and phloem transport. Phloem-specific and constitutive AVP1 overexpressing lines showed increased growth and more efficiently moved carbohydrates to sink organs compared to WT. This suggested changes in metabolic flux but diagnostic metabolites of central metabolism did not show changes in steady state levels. This research focuses on fundamental aspects of carbon utilization and transport, and has a strong applied component, since increased H+-PPase activity enhances plant biomass, nutrient up-take capacities, and stress tolerance for as yet not fully characterized reasons.
- The Microbial Retting Environment of Hibiscus Cannabinus and Its Implications in Broader Applications
- Fiber-yielding plants is an area of increased interest due to the potential use in a variety of green-based materials. These biocomposites can be incorporated into multiple uses; for example, to replace building materials and interior vehicular paneling. The research here aims to focus in on the crop Hibiscus cannabinus for utilization into these functions. H. cannabinus is economically attractive due to the entire process being able to be accomplished here in the United States. The plant can be grown in a relatively short growth period (120-180 days), and then processed and incorporated in a biocomposite. The plant fiber must first be broken down into a useable medium. This is accomplished by the retting process, which occurs when microbial constituents breakdown the heteropolysaccharides releasing the fiber. The research aims to bridge the gap between the primitive process of retting and current techniques in molecular and microbiology. Utilizing a classical microbiological approach, which entailed enrichment and isolation of pectinase-producing bacteria for downstream use in augmented microbial retting experiments. The tracking of the bacteria was accomplished by using the 16S rRNA which acts as “barcodes” for bacteria. Next-generation sequencing can then provide data from each environment telling the composition and microbial diversity of each tested variable. The main environments tested are: a natural environment, organisms contributed by the plant material solely, and an augmented version in which pectinase-producing bacteria are added. In addition, a time-course experiment was performed on the augmented environment providing data of the shift to an anaerobic environment. Lastly, a drop-in set was performed using each isolate separately to determine which contributes to the shift in microbial organization. This research provided a much needed modernization of the retting technique. Previous studies have been subject to simple clone libraries and growth plate assays and next-generation sequencing will bring the understanding of microbial retting into the 21st century.
- Understanding Microbial Biodegradation of Environmental Contaminants
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The accumulation of industrial contaminants in the natural environments have rapidly become a serious threat for human and animal life. Fortunately, there are microorganisms capable of degrading or transforming environmental contaminants. The present dissertation work aimed to understand the genomic basis of microbial degradation and resistance. The focus was the genomic study of the following bacteria: a) Pseudomonas fluorescens NCIMB 11764, a unique bacterium with specific enzymes that allow cyanide adaptation features. Potential cyanide degradation mechanisms found in this strain included nit1C cluster, and CNO complex. Potential cyanide tolerance genes found included cyanide insensitive oxidases, nitric oxide producing gene, and iron metabolism genes. b) Cupriavidus sp. strain SK-3 and strain SK-4. The genome of both bacteria presented the bph operon for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) degradation, but we found differences in the sequences of the genes. Those differences might indicate their preferences for different PCB substrates. c) Arsenic resistant bacterial communities observed in the Atacama Desert. Specific bacteria were found to thrive depending on the arsenic concentration. Examples were Bacteroidetes and Spirochaetes phyla whose proportions increased in the river with high arsenic concentrations. Also, DNA repair and replication metabolic functions seem to be necessary for resistance to arsenic contaminated environments. Our research give us insights on how bacteria communities, not just individually, can adapt and become resistant to the contaminants. The present dissertation work showed specific genes and mechanisms for degradation and resistance of contaminants that could contribute to develop new bioremediation strategies.
- Restoration Techniques for Northern Bobwhites
- Isolated populations of northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) have declined causing many quail managers to attempt population restoration by releasing captive-reared bobwhites or translocating wild bobwhites. I evaluated three restoration techniques: (1) release of captive-reared bobwhites, (2) translocation of bobwhites from high densities to low densities, and (3) release of captive-reared and translocated bobwhites acclimated on site prior to release. These results show that captive-reared birds have reduced survival and fewer nesting attempts when compared to translocated birds and that acclimation time was not a factor. I hypothesized that high mortality rates were caused by captive-reared birds exhibiting different predator avoidance behavior than wild birds. Captive-reared and wild-trapped bobwhites were subjected to independent predator simulations and their responses were recorded on high definition video. Threat recognition time, reaction type, and reaction time was recorded for comparative analysis. Pen-reared birds recognized the simulated raptorial and terrestrial predator threats quicker than wild-trapped birds, but reaction times were not different among groups. However, the type of reaction was different among groups where pen-reared birds typically flushed immediately upon recognizing either simulated predator as compared to wild-trapped birds which typically ran or held when subjected to the raptorial threat and showed little to no observable reaction to the terrestrial threat. These results reveal a potential loss of a holding trait in pen-reared birds, resulting in a quicker revealing of their position in the presence of a threat, thereby increasing their risk of predation.
- The Effect of Curcumin Supplementation on Physical and Biological Indices of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and Inflammation Following Muscle Injury
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In this project, the effects of dietary polyphenols on exercise-induced muscle damage and vascular health are examined. Dietary polyphenols exert well-known anti-inflammatory effects; however, how these effects are realized with respect to vascular health and EIMD is relatively unknown. I begin by reviewing the available literature surrounding the impact of three dietary polyphenols (curcumin, catechins, and quercetin) on inflammation associated with EIMD. It is well established that their primary means of anti-inflammation is through alterations of NF-κB and AP-1 transcription activities. Given this, their inclusion into training strategies seems reasonable. Consistent evidence is presented making a case for the anti-inflammatory effects of dietary polyphenols following EIMD. I follow this review up by completing an in-depth study on the consumption of curcumin prior to EIMD. I found curcumin (1000 mg/day) can reduce subjective soreness and decrease inflammation compared to placebo controls. To further understand the effects of dietary polyphenols on health, I investigate the effects of a four-week supplementation period of cocoa (catechins) on vascular. I concluded that atherogenic risk in obese women is reduced after consumption of cocoa. In addition to these experimental projects, I developed two novel methods that can be used to investigate vascular health (EMP concentration) and intracellular protein and mRNA production using flow cytometry.
- Stress Response by Alternative Σ-factor, Rpoh, and Analysis of Posttranslational Modification of the Heat Shock Protein, Dnak, in Escherichia Coli
- Bacteria have developed specialized responses that involve the expression of particular genes present in a given regulon. Sigma factors provide regulatory mechanisms to respond to stress by acting as transcriptional initiation factors. This work focuses on σ32 during oxidative stress in Escherichia coli. The differential response of key heat shock (HS) genes was investigated during HS and oxidative stress using qPCR techniques. While groEL and dnaJ experienced increases in transcriptional response to H2O2 (10 mM), HS (42°C), and paraquat (50 mM) exposure, the abundance of dnaK over the co-chaperones was apparent. It was hypothesized that DnaK undergoes oxidative modification by reactive carbonyls at its Lys-rich C-terminus, accounting for the differential response during oxidative stress. A σ32-mediated β-galactosidase reporter was devised to detect the activity of wild-type DnaK and DnaKV634X modified to lack the Lys-rich C-terminus. Under unstressed conditions and HS, σ32 was bound at the same rate in both strains. When subjected to H2O2, the WT DnaK strain produced significantly higher β-galactosidase than DnaKV634X (one-tailed Student’s t test p=0.000002, α=0.05) and approached the same level of output as the lacZ positive control. The β-galactosidase assay indicates that DnaK undergoes Lys modification in the WT strain, preventing the protein from binding σ32, increasing the activity of σ32, and resulting in higher β-galactosidase activity than the DnaKV634X strain. In the DnaKV634X strain DnaK continues to bind σ32 so that σ32 could not promote the production of β-galactosidase. These findings demonstrate how DnaK is oxidatively modified, hindering the interaction with σ32 in manner distinct from HS.
- Characteristics of Primary Cilia and Centrosomes in Neuronal and Glial Lineages of the Adult Brain
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Primary cilia are sensory organelles that are important for initiating cell division in the brain, especially through sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling. Several lines of evidence suggest that the mitogenic effect of Shh requires primary cilia. Proliferation initiated by Shh signaling plays key roles in brain development, in neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus, and in the generation of glial cells in response to cortical injury. In spite of the likely involvement of cilia in these events, little is known about their characteristics. Centrosomes, which are associated with primary cilia, also have multiple influences on the cell cycle, and they are important in assembling microtubules for the maintenance of the cell’s cytoskeleton and cilia. The cilia of terminally differentiated neurons have been previously examined with respect to length, incidence, and receptors present. However, almost nothing is known about primary cilia in stem cells, progenitors, or differentiated glial cells. Moreover, it is not known how the properties of cilia and centrosomes may vary with cell cycle or proliferative potential, in brain or other tissues. This dissertation focuses first on neurogenesis in the hippocampal subgranular zone (SGZ). The SGZ is one of the few brain regions in mammals that gives rise to a substantial number of new neurons throughout adulthood. The neuron lineage contains a progression of identifiable precursor cell types with different proliferation rates. This present study found that primary cilia were present in every cell type in the neuronal lineage in SGZ. Cilium length and incidence were positively correlated among these cell types. Ciliary levels of adenylyl cyclase type III (ACIII) levels relative to ADP-ribosylation factor-like protein 13b (Arl13b) was higher in neurons than in precursor cells and glia, and also changed with the cell cycle. G-protein coupled receptors, SstR3, MCHR1, and Gpr161 receptors were only found in neuronal cilia. The levels and distribution of three centrosomal proteins, γ-tubulin, pericentrin and cenexin in neurons was different from the distributions in precursors and glia. The second focus of study is glial responses to injury in the neocortex, which has been widely studied as an injury model. This study found that in the normal adult somatosensory cortex, primary cilia were present in astrocytes and polydendrocytes but not in microglia. Following injury, the incidence of primary cilia decreased in astrocytes. Also, a new cell type expressing GFAP, NG2 and Olig2 was seen 3 days following injury, but was not present in normal mice. The characteristics of primary cilia and centrosome described here suggest that in stem cells and progenitors their characteristics may be well suited for proliferation, whereas in neurons, the cilia and centrosomes are important for other sensory functions.
- Improving Processing Efficiency for Forensic DNA Samples
- The goal of this project was to reduce processing time for forensic DNA testing without incurring significant added costs and/or the need for new instrumentation, while still generating high quality profiles. This was accomplished by: 1) extraction normalization using the ChargeSwitch® Forensic DNA Purification Kit such that a small range of DNA concentrations was consistently obtained, eliminating the need for sample quantification and dilution; 2) developing fast PCR protocols for STR primer sets using shorter amplification methods, low volume reactions and non-fast thermal cyclers; and 3) developing a quicker 3130xl Genetic Analyzer detection method using an alternative polymer/array length combination. Extraction normalization was achieved through a reduction in bead quantity, thereby forcing an increase in bead binding efficiency. Four products (AmpliTaq Gold® Fast PCR Master Mix, KAPA2G™ Fast Multiplex PCR Kit, SpeedSTAR™ HS DNA Polymerase and Type-it Microsatellite PCR Kit) were evaluated for low volume (3μl) fast PCR on a 384-well Veriti® thermal cycler with the Identifiler primer set. KAPA2G™ was selected for 3μl fast PCR protocols using PowerPlex 16 HS and Identifiler Plus primer sets (42-51min), as well as 5μl and 6μl Identifiler fast reactions on a 9700 thermal cycler (51-60min). Alternative detection (POP-6™/22cm) achieved 24-28min run times, but with decreased resolution as compared to traditional POP-4®/36cm detection for alleles >200bp; however, 1bp resolution was still obtainable for alleles <300bp. These modifications resulted in robust databasing processes with up to a 37% reduction in processing time for buccal swabs and Buccal DNA Collectors™ using the three primer sets evaluated (3μl fast PCR reactions) and generated high quality STR profiles with ≥90% pass rates.
- Neurotoxicity of the Industrial Solvent 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol: Involvement of the GABA Receptor
- A recent chemical spill of 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol (4-MCHM) in West Virginia left 300,000 people without water. Officials claimed that this compound is not lethally toxic, but potentially harmful if swallowed or inhaled, and can cause eye and skin irritation. Sittig's Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemical Carcinogens reports high exposures from skin contact or inhalation may cause damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs, and may result in death. However, no quantitative data seem to exist and no references can be found on neurotoxicity. We have investigated the neurotoxicity of 4-MCHM using mammalian nerve cell networks grown on microelectrode arrays. Network spontaneous activity from multiple units (range 48 – 120 per network) were used as the primary readout. Individual units were followed based on spike waveforms digitized at 40 kHz (Plexon MNAP system). Dose response curves show the effective inhibitory concentration at 50 percent decrease (EC50) to average 27.4 microM SD±6.17. However, in the presence of 40 microM bicuculline, a competitive GABAA antagonist, the EC50 shifts to 70.63uM SD ±4.3; implying that early, low concentration exposures to 4-MCHM involve GABA activation. Initial activity loss occurs without active unit loss (defined as 10 or more template threshold crossing per min), indicating functional interference with spike production. Full recovery has not been seen at concentrations above 130 microM, unless the culture was given bicuculline. Direct exposure to 400uM results in immediate, irreversible loss of spike production, followed by necrosis of glia and neurons.
- brk1 and dcd1 Act Synergistically in Subsidiary Cell Formation in Zea mays
- Subsidiary mother cell (SMC) divisions during stomatal complex formation in Zea mays are asymmetric generating a small subsidiary cell (SC) and a larger epidermal cell. Mutants with a high number of abnormally shaped subsidiary cells include the brick1 (brk1) and discordia1 (dcd1) mutants. BRK1 is homologous to HSPC300, an ARP2/3 complex activator, and is involved in actin nucleation while DCD1 is a regulatory subunit of the PP2A phosphatase needed for microtubule generation (Frank and Smith, 2002; Wright et al. 2009). Possible causes of the abnormal SCs in brk1 mutants include a failure of the SMC nucleus to polarize in advance of mitosis, no actin patch, and transverse and/or no PPBs (Gallagher and Smith, 2000; Panteris et al 2006). The abnormal subsidiary mother cell division in dcd1 is due to correctly localized, but disorganized preprophase bands (PPBs; Wright et al. 2009). The observation that brk1 has defects in PPB formation and that the dcd1 phenotype is enhanced by the application of actin inhibitors led us to examine the dcd1; brk1 double mutant (Gallagher and Smith, 1999). We found that dcd1; brk1 double mutants demonstrate a higher percentage of aberrant SCs than the single mutants combined suggesting that these two mutations have a synergistic and additive effect on SC formation. Our observations and results are intriguing and the future step will be to quantitate the abnormal PPBs and phragmoplasts in the double and single mutants using immunolocalization of tubulin and actin as well as observations of live cells expressing tubulin-YFP.
- Investigation of Strategies for Improving STR Typing of Degraded and Low Copy DNA from Human Skeletal Remains and Bloodstains
- Forensic STR analysis is limited by the quality and quantity of DNA. Significant damage or alteration to the molecular structure of DNA by depurination, crosslinking, base modification, and strand breakage can impact typing success. Two methods that could potentially improve STR typing of challenged samples were explored: an in vitro DNA repair assay (PreCR™ Repair Mix) and whole genome amplification. Results with the repair assay showed trends of improved performance of STR profiling of bleach-damaged DNA. However, the repair assay did not improve DNA profiles from environmentally-damaged bloodstains or bone, and in some cases resulted in lower RFU values for STR alleles. The extensive spectrum of DNA damage and myriad combinations of lesions that can be present in forensic samples appears to pose a challenge for the in vitro PreCR™ assay. The data suggest that the use of PreCR™ in casework should be considered with caution due to the assay’s varied results. As an alternative to repair, whole genome amplification (WGA) was pursued. The DOP-PCR method was selected for WGA because of initial primer design and greater efficacy for amplifying degraded samples. Several modifications of the original DOP-PCR primer were evaluated. These modifications allowed for an overall more robust amplification of damaged DNA from both contemporary and historical skeletal remains compared with that obtained by standard DNA typing and a previously described DOP-PCR method. These new DOP-PCR primers show promise for WGA of degraded DNA.
- Women Have Higher Skin Temperature on the Back during Treadmill Exercise in a Hot, Humid Environment
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A common measurement of body temperature during exercise in a hot, humid environment is mean skin temperature collected from 3-12 sites on the body. However, such an approach fails to demonstrate localized differences in skin temperature that are likely to exist as a function of gender. The purpose of this study was to examine potential differences in skin temperature between men and women at 17 different locations on the body. Young women (21 ± 1 y; n = 11) and men (23 ± 3; n = 10) were recruited to complete a 60-min walk/jog interval protocol in a hot (34 ± 1 °C), humid (64 ± 8%) environment while skin temperature was measured. Data was analyzed using a repeated-measures ANOVA (p < 0.05) and location of interaction effects determined using a Fisher’s least squares difference test. We observed a higher change (p < 0.05) from baseline skin temperatures (ΔTsk) for women in three locations: left upper back (women: avg. ΔTsk = 4.12 ± 0.20 °C; men: avg. ΔTsk = 2.70 ± 0.10 °C), right upper back (women: avg. ΔTsk = 4.19 ± 0.07 °C; men: avg. ΔTsk = 2.92 ± 0.05 °C), and right mid-back (women: avg. ΔTsk = 4.62 ± 0.14 °C; men: avg. ΔTsk =3.55 ± 0.09 °C). Individual time differences between genders occurred after 7- (left upper back) and 15-min (right upper back, right mid-back) of exercise and were maintained until the end of exercise. Women have a greater increase in skin temperature at three locations on the back following the onset of exercise in a hot, humid environment. This report provides important information regarding the implications of women exercising in a hot, humid environment.
- Effects of a Water Conservation Education Program on Water Use in Single-family Homes in Dallas, Texas
- The City of Dallas Environmental Education Initiative (EEI) is a hands-on, inquiry-based, K-12 water conservation education program that teaches students concepts about water and specific water conservation behaviors. Few descriptions and evaluations, especially quantitative in nature, of water conservation education programs have previously been conducted in the literature. This research measured the quantitative effects and impacts of the education program on water use in single-family homes in Dallas, Texas. A total of 2,122 students in 104 classrooms at three schools in the Dallas Independent School District received hands-on, inquiry-based water conservation education lessons and the average monthly water use (in gallons) in single-family homes was analyzed to measure whether or not there was a change in water use. The results showed that over a period of one calendar year the water use in the single-family homes within each school zone and throughout the entire research area in this study experienced a statistically significant decrease in water use of approximately 501 gallons per home per month (independent, t-test, p>0.001). Data from this research suggests that EEI is playing a role in decreasing the amount of water used for residential purposes. Additionally, this research demonstrates the use of a quantitative tool by which a water conservation education program’s effect on behavior change can be measured. This research shows great promise for reducing use and increasing the conservation of our world’s most precious resource.
- The Role of the Actin Cytoskeleton in Asymmetric Cell Division in Maize
- Stomata are specialized plant structures required for gaseous exchange with the outer environment. During stomata formation, the cytoskeleton plays an important role in controlling the division of the individual cells leading to the generation of the stomata complex. Two mutants that affect microfilament and microtubule organization in subsidiary mother cells include brk1 and dcd1. While only 20% of the subsidiary cells in the brk1 and dcd1 single mutants are abnormally shaped, it was reported that there is a synergistic effect between the brk1 and dcd1 mutations in the brk1; dcd1 double mutant since 100% of the subsidiary cells are abnormal. The focus of this research is to try to understand this synergistic effect by investigating the actin cytoskeleton and nuclear position in the single and double mutants. The reported results include the observation that the size of actin patch was largest in the wild-type subsidiary mother cells (SMCs) and smallest in dcd1 and brk1; dcd1 SMCs and that brk1 and brk1; dcd1 double mutants had fewer actin patches than wild-type and dcd1 SMCs. Additionally, we observed that some SMCs that did not have actin patches still underwent nuclear migration suggesting that nuclear migration may not be solely dependent on actin patch formation. Finally, during SMC cytokinesis, a large percentage of double mutant (brk1; dcd1) cells showed an off-track development of the phragmoplast as compared to the single mutants and the wild-type plant explaining the large number of abnormally shaped subsidiary cells in the double mutants.
- Cloacal Microbiota of Captive-bred and Wild Attwater’s Prairie-chicken, Tympanuchus Cupido Attwateri
- The Attwater’s prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri; APC) is a species of grouse native to Texas coastal prairies and is on the critically endangered species list as a result of habitat destruction and overhunting. All of the current populations were captively bred and released into the wild. Survivorship for released APCs is very low, and individuals seldom survive to reproduce in the wild. One factor contributing to this may be an alteration in the gut microbiota as a result of captivity. Factors potentially influencing the gut microbial composition in captivity include antibiotic therapy, stress, and a predominantly commercially formulated diet. Recent studies have begun to shed light on the importance of the host microbial endosymbionts. Antibiotic administration, stress, diet, age, genotype and other factors have been shown to influence microbial populations in the gastrointestinal tracts of many different vertebrates. Sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons on the Ion Torrent™ platform was used in this study to identify groups of bacteria in the cloacas as a surrogate for the gut microbiota in the APC. Antibiotic-treated and untreated birds, wild-hatched and captive-bred birds, and individuals sampled before and after release to the wild were examined. Significant differences were found between wild-hatched and captive raised birds both pre- and post release. In addition, there was extensive variation among the populations at the lower taxonomic ranks between individuals for each group of APCs. Principal coordinate analysis based on the weighted UniFrac distance metric further exhibited some clustering of individuals by treatment. These data suggest that captive breeding may have long-term effects on the cloacal microbiota of APCs with unknown consequences to their long-term health and survivorship.
- Regulation of Alternative Sigma Factors During Oxidative and Ph Stresses in the Phototroph Rhodopseudomonas Palustris
- Rhodopseudomonas palustris is a metabolically versatile phototrophic α-proteobacterium. The organism experiences a wide range of stresses in its environment and during metabolism. The oxidative an pH stresses of four ECF (extracytoplasmic function) σ-factors are investigated. Three of these, σ0550, σ1813, and σ1819 show responses to light-generated singlet oxygen and respiration-generated superoxide reactive oxygen species (ROS). The EcfG homolog, σ4225, shows a high response to superoxide and acid stress. Two proteins, one containing the EcfG regulatory sequence, and an alternative exported catalase, KatE, are presented to be regulated by σ4225. Transcripts of both genes show similar responses to oxidative stress compared to σ4225, indicating it is the EcfG-like σ-factor homolog and controls the global stress response in R. palustris.
- In Vitro Investigations of Antibiotic Influences on Nerve Cell Network Responses to Pharmacological Agents
- Neuronal networks, derived from mouse embryonic frontal cortex (FC) tissue grown on microelectrode arrays, were used to investigate effects of gentamicin pretreatment on pharmacological response to the L-type calcium channel blocker, verapamil. Gentamicin is a broad spectrum antibiotic used to control bacterial contamination in cell culture. The addition of gentamicin directly to medium affects the pharmacological and morphological properties of the cells in culture. A reproducible dose response curve to verapamil from untreated cultures was established and the mean EC50 was calculated to be 1.5 ± 0.5 μM (n=10). 40 μM bicuculline was added to some cell cultures to stabilize activity and verapamil dose response curves were performed in presence of bicuculline, EC50 1.4 ± 0.1 μM (n=9). Statistical analysis showed no significant difference in verapamil EC50s values obtained in presence of bicuculline and hence the data was combined and a standard verapamil EC50 was calculated as 1.4 ± 0.13 μM (n=19). This EC50 was then used to compare verapamil EC50s obtained from neuronal cell cultures with chronic and acute exposures to gentamicin. FC cultures (21- 38 days old) were found to be stable in presence of 2300 μM gentamicin. The recommended concentration of gentamicin for contamination control is 5uL /1 ml medium (108 μM). At this concentration, the verapamil EC50 shifted from 1.4 ± 0.13 μM to 0.9 ± 0.2 μM. Given the limited data points and only two complete CRCs, statistical comparison was not feasible. However, there is a definite trend that shows sensitization of cells to verapamil in presence of gentamicin. The cultures exposed to 108 μM gentamicin for 5 days after seeding showed loss of adhesion and no data could be collected for pharmacological analysis. To conclude, acute gentamicin exposure of neuronal cell cultures causes increased sensitivity to verapamil and chronic or long term exposure to gentamicin may cause loss of adhesion of the cell culture by affecting the glial growth. The effect of chronic exposure to gentamicin on pharmacological responses to verapamil remains inconclusive.
- Measuring Biomarkers From Dried Blood Spots Utilizing Bead-based Multiplex Technology
- Dried blood spots is an alternative method to collect blood samples from research subjects. However, little is known about how hemoglobin and hematocrit affect bead-based multiplex assay performance. The purpose of this study was to determine how bead-based multiplex assays perform when analyzing dried blood spot samples. A series of four experiments outline the study each with a specific purpose. A total of 167 subject samples were collected and 92 different biomarkers were measured. Median fluorescence intensity results show a positive correlation between filtered and non-filtered samples. Utilizing a smaller quantity of sample results in a positive correlation to a larger sample. Removal of hemoglobin from the dried blood spot sample does not increase detection or concentration of biomarkers. Of the 92 different biomarkers measured 56 were detectable in 100-75% of the attempted samples. We conclude that blood biomarkers can be detected using bead-based multiplex assays. In addition, it is possible to utilize a smaller quantity of sample while avoiding the use of the entire sample, and maintaining a correlation to the total sample. While our method of hemoglobin was efficient it also removed the biomarkers we wished to analyze. Thus, an alternative method is necessary to determine if removing hemoglobin increases concentration of biomarkers. More research is necessary to determine if the biomarkers measured in this study can be measured over time or within an experimental model.
- Evidence for Multiple Functions of a Medicago Truncatula Transporter
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Legumes play an important role in agriculture as major food sources for humans and as feed for animals. Bioavailable nitrogen is a limiting nutrient for crop growth. Legumes are important because they can form a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria called rhizobia that results in nitrogen-fixing root nodules. In this symbiosis, rhizobia provide nitrogen to the legumes and the legumes provide carbon sources to the rhizobia. The Medicago truncatula NPF1.7/NIP/LATD gene is essential for root nodule development and also for proper development of root architecture. Work in our lab on the MtNPF1.7/MtNIP/LATD gene has established that it encodes a nitrate transporter and strongly suggests it has another function. Mtnip-1/latd mutants have pleiotropic defects, which are only partially explained by defects in nitrate transport. MtNPF1.7/NIP/LATD is a member of the large and diverse NPF/NRT1(PTR) transporter family. NPF/NRT1(PTR) members have been shown to transport other compounds in addition to nitrate: nitrite, amino acids, di- and tri-peptides, dicarboxylates, auxin, abscisic acid and glucosinolates. In Arabidopsis thaliana, the AtNPF6.3/NRT1.1( CHL1) transporter was shown to transport auxin as well as nitrate. Atchl1 mutants have defects in root architecture, which may be explained by defects in auxin transport and/or nitrate sensing. Considering the pleiotropic phenotypes observed in Mtnip-1/latd mutant plants, it is possible that MtNPF1.7/NIP/LATD could have similar activity as AtNPF6.3/NRT1.1(CHL1). Experimental evidence shows that the MtNPF1.7/NIP/LATD gene is able to restore nitrate-absent responsiveness defects of the Atchl1-5 mutant. The constitutive expression of MtNPF1.7/NIP/LATD gene was able to partially, but not fully restore the wild-type phenotype in the Atchl1-5 mutant line in response to auxin and cytokinin. The constitutive expression of MtNPF1.7/NIP/LATD gene affects the lateral root density of wild-type Col-0 plants differently in response to IAA in the presence of high (1mM) or low (0.1 mM) nitrate. MtNPF1.7/NIP/LATD gene expression is not regulated by nitrate at the concentrations tested and MtNPF1.7/NIP/LATD does not regulate the nitrate-responsive MtNRT2.1 gene. Mtnip-1 plants have an abnormal gravitropic root response implicating an auxin defect. Together with these results, MtNPF1.7/NIP/LATD is associated with nitrate and auxin; however, it does not act in a homologous fashion as AtNPF6.3/NRT1.1(CHL1) does in A. thaliana.
- Optimization of Novel Culturing and Testing Procedures for Acute Effects on Acartia Tonsa and Tisbe Biminiensis
- Copepods comprise an ecologically important role in freshwater and marine ecosystems, which is why they are often considered an important ecotoxicological model organism. The International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 14669 protocol is the only guideline for the determination of acute toxicity in three European marine copepod species: Acartia tonsa. The goal of this project was to assess the feasibility of establishing and maintaining cultures of Acartia tonsa, as well as to refine current culturing and egg separation methods. Initial culture methodology proved difficult for consistent production of eggs and collection of nauplii. The development of an airlift system for the separation of eggs from nauplii and adults, based on size, successfully increased the availability of eggs, nauplii and adults. The sensitivity and relative conditions of the copepod species was assessed by running a series of 48h acute toxicity tests with the reference toxicants 3,5-dichlorophenol, 4,4’-methylenebis(2,6-di-tert-butylphenol. The acute 48 hour median lethal dose concentration (LC50), the no observed effect concentration (NOEC), and the lowest observed effect concentration (LOEC) was analyzed for the three reference compounds for of A. tonsa.
- Acute Effects of the Antibiotic Streptomycin on Neural Network Activity and Pharmacological Responses
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The purpose of this study is to find out that if antibiotic streptomycin decreases neuronal network activity or affects the pharmacological responses. The experiments in this study were conducted via MEA (multi-electrode array) technology which records neuronal activity from devices that have multiple small electrodes, serve as neural interfaces connecting neurons to electronic circuitry. The result of this study shows that streptomycin lowered the spike production of neuronal network, and also, sensitization was seen when neuronal network pre-exposed to streptomycin.
- Engineered Microbial Consortium for the Efficient Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels
- Current energy and environmental challenges are driving the use of cellulosic materials for biofuel production. A major obstacle in this pursuit is poor ethanol tolerance among cellulolytic Clostridium species. The first objective of this work was to establish a potential upper boundary of ethanol tolerance for the cellulosome itself. The hydrolytic function of crude cellulosome extracts from C. cellulolyticum on carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) with 0, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25% (v/v) ethanol was determined. Results indicated that the endoglucanase activity of the cellulosome incubated in 5% and 10% ethanol was significantly different from a control without ethanol addition. Furthermore a significant difference was observed in endoglucanase activity for cellulosome incubated in 5%, 10%, 15%, 20% and 25% ethanol in a standalone experiment. Endoglucanase activity continued to be observed for up to 25% ethanol, indicating that cellulosome function in ethanol will not be an impediment to future efforts towards engineering increasing production titers to levels at least as high as the current physiological limits of the most tolerant ethanologenic microbes. The second objective of this work was to study bioethanol production by a microbial co-culture involving Clostridium cellulolyticum and a recombinant Zymomonas mobilis engineered for the utilization of oligodextrans. The recombinant Z. mobilis ZM4 pAA1 and wild type ZM4 were first tested on RM medium (ATCC 1341) containing 2% cellobiose as the carbon source. Ethanol production from the recombinant Z. mobilis was three times that observed from the wild type Z. mobilis. Concomitant with ethanol production was the reduction in OD from 2.00 to 1.580, indicating the consumption of cellobiose. No such change in OD was observed from the wild type. The recombinant ZM4 was then co-cultured with C. cellulolyticum using cellobiose and microcrystalline cellulose respectively as carbon sources. Results indicate that the recombinant ZM4 acted synergistically with C. cellulolyticum to utilize 2.0 g L-1 cellobiose, producing as much as 0.40 mM concentration of ethanol whereas only 0.20 mM ethanol was detected for the wild type ZM4 co-cultured with C. cellulolyticum under the same conditions. A co-culture of the recombinant ZM4 and C. cellulolyticum using 7.5 g L-1 microcrystalline cellulose gave lower ethanol yield than when using cellobiose. In the latter case, the recombinant began producing ethanol in 5 days whereas the wild type required 10 days to produce detectable ethanol. Future efforts will concentrate on identifying the correct concentration of cellulosic substrate at which synergy will be observed using the recombinant ZM4 and other cellulose degrading microorganisms, as well as optimizing medium formulations to better support both organisms.
- Developing a Forest Gap Model to Be Applied to a Watershed-scaled Landscape in the Cross Timbers Ecoregion Using a Topographic Wetness Index
- A method was developed for extending a fine-scaled forest gap model to a watershed-scaled landscape, using the Eastern Cross Timbers ecoregion as a case study for the method. A topographic wetness index calculated from digital elevation data was used as a measure of hydrologic across the modeled landscape, and the gap model modified to have with a topographically-based hydrologic input parameter. The model was parameterized by terrain type units that were defined using combinations of USDA soil series and classes of the topographic wetness index. A number of issues regarding the sources, grid resolutions, and processing methods of the digital elevation data are addressed in this application of the topographic wetness index. Three different grid sizes, 5, 10, and 29 meter, from both LiDAR-derived and contour-derived elevation grids were used, and the grids were processed using both single-directional flow algorithm and bi-directional flow algorithm. The result of these different grids were compared and analyzed in context of their application in defining terrain types for the forest gap model. Refinements were made in the timescale of gap model’s weather model, converting it into a daily weather generator, in order to incorporate the effects of the new topographic/hydrologic input parameter. The precipitation model was converted to use a Markov model to initiate a sequence of wet and dry days for each month, and then daily precipitation amounts were determined using a gamma distribution. The output of the new precipitation model was analyzed and compared with a 100-year history of daily weather records at daily, monthly, and annual timescales. Model assumptions and requirements for biological parameters were thoroughly investigated and questioned. Often these biological parameters are based on little more than assumptions and intuition. An effort to base as many of the model’s biological parameters on measured data was made, including a new technique for estimating optimal volumetric growth rate by measuring tree rings. The gap model was set up to simulate various terrain types within the landscape.
- The Effects of Inbreeding on Fitness Traits in the Critically Endangered Attwater’s Prairie-chicken
- The goals of captive breeding programs for endangered species include preserving genetic diversity and avoiding inbreeding. Typically this is accomplished by minimizing population mean kinship; however, this approach becomes less effective when errors in the pedigree exist and may result in inbreeding depression, or reduced survival. Here, both pedigree- and DNA-based methods were used to assess inbreeding depression in the critically endangered Attwater’s prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri). Less variation in the pedigree-based inbreeding coefficients and parental relatedness values were observed compared to DNA-based measures suggesting that errors exist in the pedigree. Further, chicks identified with high parental DNA-based relatedness exhibited decreased survival at both 14- and 50-days post-hatch. A similar pattern was observed in later life stages (> 50 days post-hatch) with birds released to the wild; however, the pattern varied depending on the time post-release. While DNA-based inbreeding coefficient was positively correlated with mortality to one month post-release, an opposite pattern was observed at nine months suggesting purging of deleterious alleles. I also investigated whether immunocompetence, or the ability to produce a normal immune response, was correlated with survival; however, no significant correlation was observed suggesting that inbreeding was a more important factor influencing survival. Pairing individuals for breeding by minimizing DNA-based parental relatedness values resulted in a significant increase in chick survival. This study highlights the importance of using DNA-based methods to avoid inbreeding depression when errors exist in the pedigree.