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Investigating Human Gut Microbiome in Obesity with Machine Learning Methods

Description: Obesity is a common disease among all ages that has threatened human health and has become a global concern. Gut microbiota can affect human metabolism and thus may modulate obesity. Certain mixes of gut microbiota can protect the host to be healthy or predispose the host to obesity. Modern next-generation sequencing technique allows accessing huge amount of genetic information underlying microbiota and thus provides new insights into the functionality of these micro-organisms and their interactions with the host. Multiple previous studies have demonstrated that the microbiome might contribute to obesity by increasing dietary energy harvest, promoting fat deposition and triggering systemic inflammation. However, these researches are either based on lab cultivation studies or basic statistical analysis. In order to further explore how gut microbiota affect obesity, this thesis utilize a series of machine learning methods to analyze large amount of metagenomics data from human gut microbiome. The publicly available HMP (Human Microbiome Project) metagenomic sequencing data, contain microbiome data for healthy adults, including overweight and obese individuals, were used for this study. HMP gut data were organized based on two different feature definitions: taxonomic information and metabolic reconstruction information. Several widely used classification algorithms: namely Naive Bayes, Random Forest, SVM and elastic net logistic regression were applied to predict healthy or obese status of the subjects based on the cross-validation accuracy. Furthermore, the corresponding feature selection algorithms were used to identify signature features in each dataset that lead to the differences between healthy and obese samples. The results showed that these algorithms perform poorly on taxonomic data than metabolic pathway data though lots of selected taxa are still supported by literature. Among all the combinations between different algorithms and data, elastic net logistic regression has the best cross-validation performance and thus becomes the best model. In this model, several important ...
Date: August 2017
Creator: Zhong, Yuqing

Reproduction and Metabolic Responses to Acute and Chronic Hypoxia in Ovoviviparous Blaberid Cockroaches, with a Focus on Blaptica dubia

Description: The major components of the tracheal system of insects are an extension of the exoskeleton, and the size of the exoskeleton is fixed in the adult stage, so any increase in metabolic demand that may accompany reproduction must be met by a relatively unaltered tracheal system that the female set in place at ecdysis, when entering adulthood. Acute hypoxia tends to elicit an increase in ventilation in insects, and here, I observe increased interburst VCO2 release, and a tendency towards a more continuous gas exchange pattern being preferred over discontinuous gas exchange when Blaptica dubia and Eublaberus posticus are exposed to a descending regime of hypoxia. Additionally, higher temperatures appear to increase sensitivity to hypoxia in these species, an expected result because both species, like most ectothermic animals, display a Q10 effect, increasing metabolic rates as temperature increases. The reproductive mode of B. dubia is considered to be lecithotrophic pseudoviviparity (or type A ovoviviparity), and by the time the embryos are born, they have more than doubles in volume from the time of oviposition. This gain is apparent in the wet mass of the embryo, with no change occurring in dry mass. The egg mass that can be attributed to water begins at 39% at oviposition and increased to nearly 82% at hatching. The metabolic rates of females and embryos increase as embryonic development progresses, but bomb calorimetry reveals that energy content of the embryos does not change. It is possible that these embryos gain some nutrition from the mother during embryonic development, but direct evidence remains to be demonstrated. Blaptica dubia and Eublaberus posticusare both blaberid species that display the same reproductive mode, pseudoviviparity, with incubation occurring in a brood sac. Comparisons between the reproductive traits of B. dubia and E. posticus reveal that the two species have similar ...
Date: August 2017
Creator: Mallery, Christopher Sean

Neurological Responses to a Glucose Diet in Caenorhabditis elegans

Description: TRPV channels play a role in both mammalian insulin signaling, with TRPV1 expression in pancreatic beta-cells, and in C. elegans insulin-like signaling through expression of OSM-9, OCR-1, and OCR-2 in stress response pathways. In response to a glucose-supplemented diet, C. elegans are know to have sensitivity to anoxic stress, exhibit chemotaxis attraction, and display reduced egg-laying rate. Transcriptome analysis reveals that glucose stimulates nervous system activity with increased transcript levels of genes regulating neurotransmitters. Ciliated sensory neurons are needed for a reduced egg-laying phenotype on a glucose-supplemented diet. Egg-laying rate is not affected when worms graze on glucose-supplemented Delta-PTS OP50 E. coli, which is defective in glucose uptake. This suggests a possible sensory neuron obstruction by exopolysaccharides produced by standard OP50 E. coli on glucose, eliciting a starvation response from the worm and causing reduced egg-laying rate. Glucose chemotaxis is affected in specific TRPV subunit allele mutants: ocr-2(vs29) and osm-9(yz6), serotonin receptor mutants: ser-1(ok345) and mod-1(ok103), and G-alpha protein mutant: gpa-10(pk362). TRPV deletion mutants had no effect on glucose chemotaxis, alluding to the modality role pf TRPV alleles in specific sensory neurons. The role of serotonin in a reduced egg-laying rate with glucose remains unclear.
Date: August 2017
Creator: Dumesnil, Dennis

The Role of Thyroid Hormone across Avian Development Spectrum: Investigations on Systemic Development, Metabolism and Ontogeny of Endothermy

Description: Achievement of endothernic capacity is vital for independence from ambient temperature changes, sustained activity, optimal biochemical reactions and optimization of parental care. During early avian development, the core tenets of transition from ectothermy to endothermy are development of metabolic capacity (oxygen consumption, mitochondrial bioenergetics), enhanced cardiovascular function (heart rate and cardiac output), pulmonary ventilation and thermogenic capacity. Thyroid hormones, particularly T3, are key metabolic regulators of basal metabolism, thermogenesis, pulmonary ventilation and mitochondrial respiration. Thyroid hormone fluctuation patterns during both precocial and altricial avian endothermic transition suggest a prominent role in maturation of endothermy, cardiovascular, respiratory and skeletal muscle physiology. This body of work explores effects of T3 manipulations in two avian species: the precocial Pekin duck and the altricial Red-winged Blackbird. Increased plasma T3 during late incubation resulted in increased cardiac mass, elevated resting and intrinsic heart rate, intrinsic mean arterial pressure, increased cholinergic tone and blunted alpha-adrenergic tone in the precocial Pekin duck. In both Pekin duck and Red-winged blackbird, plasma T3 levels correlated with changes in the trajectory of endothermic ontogeny, systemic oxygen consumption, thermogenesis, maturation of pulmonary ventilatory function, altered growth and effects on skeletal and cardiac mitochondrial bioenergetics. These observations support the role of thyroid hormones as metabolic and developmental regulators at the time of attainment of endothermy during the perinatal period in precocial and altricial avian species. Insights into the role of thyroid hormone as a metabolic and development regulator at the time of avian endothermic attainment provide a more thorough understanding of metabolic and physical transitions a hatchling bird must undergo to reach the adult endothermic phenotype. Such insights also deepen understanding of the complex role thyroid hormones play in homeostasis and offer implications about the evolutionary history of endothermic capacity.
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Date: August 2017
Creator: Sirsat, Tushar S

Developing a Phylogeny Based Machine Learning Algorithm for Metagenomics

Description: Metagenomics is the study of the totality of the complete genetic elements discovered from a defined environment. Different from traditional microbiology study, which only analyzes a small percent of microbes that could survive in laboratory, metagenomics allows researchers to get entire genetic information from all the samples in the communities. So metagenomics enables understanding of the target environments and the hidden relationships between bacteria and diseases. In order to efficiently analyze the metagenomics data, cutting-edge technologies for analyzing the relationships among microbes and communities are required. To overcome the challenges brought by rapid growth in metagenomics datasets, advances in novel methodologies for interpreting metagenomics data are clearly needed. The first two chapters of this dissertation summarize and compare the widely-used methods in metagenomics and integrate these methods into pipelines. Properly analyzing metagenomics data requires a variety of bioinformatcis and statistical approaches to deal with different situations. The raw reads from sequencing centers need to be processed and denoised by several steps and then be further interpreted by ecological and statistical analysis. So understanding these algorithms and combining different approaches could potentially reduce the influence of noises and biases at different steps. And an efficient and accurate pipeline is important to robustly decipher the differences and functionality of bacteria in communities. Traditional statistical analysis and machine learning algorithms have their limitations on analyzing metagenomics data. Thus, rest three chapters describe a new phylogeny based machine learning and feature selection algorithm to overcome these problems. The new method outperforms traditional algorithms and can provide more robust candidate microbes for further analysis. With the frowing sample size, deep neural network could potentially describe more complicated characteristic of data and thus improve model accuracy. So a deep learning framework is designed on top of the shallow learning algorithm stated above in order to further ...
Date: August 2017
Creator: Rong, Ruichen

Delivery of CRISPR/Cas9 into Blood Cells of Zebrafish: Potential for Genome Editing in Somatic Cells

Description: Factor VIII is a clotting factor found on the intrinsic side of the coagulation cascade. A mutation in the factor VIII gene causes the disease Hemophilia A, for which there is no cure. The most common treatment is administration of recombinant factor VIII. However, this can cause an immune response that renders the treatment ineffective in certain hemophilia patients. For this reason a new treatment, or cure, needs to be developed. Gene editing is one solution to correcting the factor VIII mutation. CRISPR/Cas9 mediated gene editing introduces a double stranded break in the genomic DNA. Where this break occurs repair mechanisms cause insertions and deletions, or if a template oligonucleotide can be provided point mutations could be introduced or corrected. However, to accomplish this goal for editing factor VIII mutations, a way to deliver the components of CRISPR/Cas9 into somatic cells is needed. In this study, I confirmed that the CRISPR/Cas9 system was able to create a mutation in the factor VIII gene in zebrafish. I also showed that the components of CRISPR/Cas9 could be piggybacked by vivo morpholino into a variety of blood cells. This study also confirmed that the vivo morpholino did not interfere with the gRNA binding to the DNA, or Cas9 protein inducing the double stranded break.
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Date: August 2017
Creator: Schneider, Sara Jane

Markov Model of Segmentation and Clustering: Applications in Deciphering Genomes and Metagenomes

Description: Rapidly accumulating genomic data as a result of high-throughput sequencing has necessitated development of efficient computational methods to decode the biological information underlying these data. DNA composition varies across structurally or functionally different regions of a genome as well as those of distinct evolutionary origins. We adapted an integrative framework that combines a top-down, recursive segmentation algorithm with a bottom-up, agglomerative clustering algorithm to decipher compositionally distinct regions in genomes. The recursive segmentation procedure entails fragmenting a genome into compositionally distinct segments within a statistical hypothesis testing framework. This is followed by an agglomerative clustering procedure to group compositionally similar segments within the same framework. One of our main objectives was to decipher distinctive evolutionary patterns in sex chromosomes via unraveling the underlying compositional heterogeneity. Application of this approach to the human X-chromosome provided novel insights into the stratification of the X chromosome as a consequence of punctuated recombination suppressions between the X and Y from the distal long arm to the distal short arm. Novel "evolutionary strata" were identified particularly in the X conserved region (XCR) that is not amenable to the X-Y comparative analysis due to massive loss of the Y gametologs following recombination cessation. Our compositional based approach could circumvent the limitations of the current methods that depend on X-Y (or Z-W for ZW sex determination system) comparisons by deciphering the stratification even if only the sequence of sex chromosome in the homogametic sex (i.e. X or Z chromosome) is available. These studies were extended to the plant sex chromosomes which are known to have a number of evolutionary strata that formed at the initial stage of their evolution, presenting an opportunity to examine the onset of stratum formation on the sex chromosomes. Further applications included detection of horizontally acquired DNAs in extremophilic eukaryote, Galdieria sulphuraria, which ...
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Date: August 2017
Creator: Pandey, Ravi Shanker

Generating Molecular Biology Tools to Investigate the Ca2+ Binding Ability of Arabidopsis TON2

Description: The position of the cell division plane in plants is determined by the position of the preprophase band. The pre prophase band (PPB) is a ring of microtubules centered around the nucleus on the inner side of plasma membrane that establishes the cortical division site. The PPB forms at the end of G2 and breaks down at the end of prophase leaving behind protein markers of its position that are collectively called the cortical division site. During cytokinesis the phragmoplast expands towards the cortical division site and mediates the fusion of the new cell plate with the mother cell at that position. Several proteins necessary for PPB formation in plants have been identified, including maize DCD1 and ADD1 and Arabidopsis TON2, which are all type 2A protein phosphatase (PP2A)B" regulatory subunits. DCD1, ADD1, and TON2 localize to the PPB and the cortical division site through metaphase. The PP2A subunits each have two EF-hand domains, which are predicted to bind calcium ions. Since calcium ions are important for some aspects of cell division, we designed a series of constructs to test if TON2 binds calcium. TON2 protein was cloned into expression vectors, pET42a, and expression of TON2 protein was confirmed via Western blotting and immunodetection using a GST antibody. Site directed mutagenesis was used to mutate the TON2 EF-hand domains and mutated cDNAs were also cloned into expression vectors. These were then expressed in bacterial systems. Finally, the GST tagged proteins were purified. In the future, wild-type and mutated proteins TON2 proteins will used in calcium binding assays to determine if TON2 binds calcium.
Date: August 2017
Creator: Shao, Danyang

The Acute Toxic Effects of the Synthetic Cannabinoid, JWH-018 on the Cardiovascular and Neuroendocrine System in Ictalurus punctatus (Channel Catfish)

Description: Cannabinoid (CB) receptors have been found in most vertebrates that have been studied. The location of various CB receptors in the body and brain are known, but their physiological functions are not fully understood. The effects CBs have on the cardiovascular system have been of growing interest in recent years. Increasing reports from emergency departments and law enforcement agencies detail acute cardiovascular and psychological effects from synthetic CB intoxication, such as JWH-018. This major health concern is substantiated by governmental agencies like the CDC and NIDA. This pilot study investigates the acute toxic effects of the synthetic CB, JWH-018, on the cardiovascular and neuroendocrine systems in Ictalurus punctatus (channel catfish). Research in organisms besides the traditional mammal models can provide new insights into CB function and physiology. Ictalurus punctatus lend multiple benefits as a model organism that permits researchers to investigate in vivo effects of both cardiovascular and neuroendocrine systems without much influence from traditional sampling methods, and further more provide ample size and tissue to perform specific cardiovascular experiments. Multiple methods were used to assess cardiovascular function and sympathetic nervous system activation. Two different doses, low (500 µg/kg) and high 1,500 µg/kg, of JWH-018 were evaluated in the study. Delivery of JWH-018, via dorsal aorta cannulation, was administered to channel catfish in order to measure cardiovascular functions and sample blood. Plasma levels of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal/interrenal (HPA/I) biomarkers; ACTH, cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, were measured using ELISAs. Myocardial and neural tissue was collected after the exposures for rt-PCR analysis on β2 adrenergic and glucocorticoid receptor density change. Acute exposure of JWH-018 in undisturbed channel catfish yielded several findings: (1) High dose of JWH-018 was responsible for cardio depressor effects in catfish with a tendency to produce tachycardia, (2) rt-PCR results showed a 2.7 fold increase of glucocorticoid receptor mRNA density ...
Date: August 2017
Creator: Taylor, Dedric Esmond

Evaluating the Role of UV Exposure and Recovery Regimes in PAH Photo-Induced Toxicity

Description: Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are contaminants synthesized through incomplete combustion of carbon based substances. PAHs are known to be photodynamic and toxicity increases exponentially when in contact with ultraviolet radiation (UV). The effect of UV absent recovery periods and potential for latent toxicity during photo-induced toxicity are previously unknown and are not included within the toxicity model. Results of equal interval tests further support the current reciprocity model as a good indicator of PAH photo-induced toxicity. Interval test results also indicate a possible presence of time-dependent toxicity and recovery thresholds and should be included into toxicity risk assessments. Moreover, results of latent effects assays show that latent mortality is a significant response to PAH photo-induced toxicity and should be included into toxicity risk assessments. The present research demonstrates that UV exposure time rate is a significant driving force of PAH photo-induced toxicity.
Date: August 2017
Creator: Gnau, Jennifer Leigh

Development of a Targeted Protein Residue Analysis Approach in Archaeology

Description: Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) based proteomic methods have provided archaeologists with a powerful tool for the discovery and identification of proteins within artifacts. Traditionally, discovery-based methods have utilized a non-targeted full mass scan method in an attempt to identify all proteins present within a given sample. However, increased sensitivity is often needed to target specific proteins in order to test hypotheses. Proteins present within archaeological materials present a unique challenge, as they are often subjected to a variety of chemical transformations both before and after burial. Any preserved proteins will be present within a complex mixture of compounds, and full mass scans often fail to detect less abundant proteins of interest. Consistent and reliable targeted methods are needed to detect protein biomarkers. Taphonomic experimentation was employed as a means to identify the effect of particular processes and conditions on the preservation of mare's milk proteins. In addition, three LC-MS methods were evaluated for their efficiency in identifying mare's milk-specific peptide biomarkers from experimental pottery samples. The ability to reliably detect the presence of these species-specific peptides can help provide evidence about past cultural groups, including the origins of dairying and animal domestication.
Date: August 2017
Creator: Scott, Ashley

The Effects of Air Pollution on the Intestinal Microbiota: A Novel Approach to Assess How Gut Microbe Interactions with the Environment Affect Human Health

Description: This thesis investigates how air pollution, both natural and anthropogenic, affects changes in the proximal small intestine and ileum microbiota profile, as well as intestinal barrier integrity, histological changes, and inflammation. APO-E KO mice on a high fat diet were randomly selected to be exposed by whole body inhalation to either wood smoke (WS) or mixed vehicular exhaust (MVE), with filtered air (FA) acting as the control. Intestinal integrity and histology were assessed by observing expression of well- known structural components tight junction proteins (TJPs), matrix metallopeptidase-9 (MMP-9), and gel-forming mucin (MUC2), as well known inflammatory related factors: TNF-α, IL-1β, and toll-like receptor (TLR)-4. Bacterial profiling was done using DNA analysis of microbiota within the ileum, utilizing 16S metagenomics sequencing (Illumina miSeq) technique. Overall results of this experiment suggest that air pollution, both anthropogenic and natural, cause a breach in the intestinal barrier with an increase in inflammatory factors and a decrease in beneficial bacteria. This evidence suggests the possibility of air pollution being a potential causative agent of intestinal disease as well as a possible contributing mechanism for induction of systemic inflammation.
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Date: May 2017
Creator: Fitch, Megan

Development of von Willebrand Factor Zebrafish Mutant Using CRISPR/Cas9 Mediated Genome Editing

Description: von Willebrand factor (VWF) protein acts in the intrinsic coagulation pathway by stabilizing FVIII from proteolytic clearance and at the site of injury, by promoting the adhesion and aggregation of platelets to the exposed subendothelial wall. von Willebrand disease (VWD) results from quantitative and qualitative deficiencies in VWF protein. The variability expressivity in phenotype presentations is in partly caused by the action of modifier genes. Zebrafish has been used as hemostasis animal model. However, it has not been used to evaluate VWD. Here, we report the development of a heterozygote VWF mutant zebrafish using the genome editing CRISPR/Cas9 system to screen for modifier genes involved in VWD. We designed CRISPR oligonucleotides and inserted them into pT7-gRNa plasmid. We then prepared VWF gRNA along with the endonuclease Cas9 RNA from Cas9 plasmid. We injected these two RNAs into 1-4 cell-stage zebrafish embryos and induced a mutation in VWF exon 29 of the zebrafish with a mutagenesis rate of 16.6% (3/18 adult fish). Also, we observed a germline transmission with an efficiency rate of 5.5% (1/18 adult fish). We obtained a deletion in exon 29 which should result in truncated VWF protein.
Date: May 2017
Creator: Toffessi Tcheuyap, Vanina

Adrenergic and Cholinergic Regulation of Cardiovascular Function in Embryonic Neotropic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax basilianus)

Description: Investigations of cholinergic and adrenergic tone on heart rate (fH) and mean arterial pressure (Pm) during embryonic development have been conducted on numerous avian species. While these investigations have documented that adrenergic tone, a continuous stimulation, on fH and Pm is vital to embryonic development in the birds studied to date, development of cholinergic tone on fH has been shown to vary even within species. Further, past studies have been bias to focus primarily on precocial species while altricial species remain poorly understood in this context. The goal of this investigation was to investigate the role of cholinergic and adrenergic tone on fH and Pm of an altricial species, the neotropic cormorant (P. brasilianus) to address this bias. The embryonic neotropic cormorant possesses B-and-a adrenergic tone on fH and Pm at 70% and 90% incubation while cholinergic tone on fH occurs at 90% incubation. This pattern of control is similar to that previously reported for several species of precocial birds suggesting the development of tonic cardiovascular regulation may be conserved across avian taxa.
Date: May 2017
Creator: Cummins, James B

Studies on Zebrafish Thrombocyte Function

Description: Thrombocytes are important players in hemostasis. There is still much to be explored regarding the molecular basis of the thrombocyte function. In our previous microarray analysis data, we found IFT122 (an intraflagellar transport protein known to be involved in cilia formation) transcripts in zebrafish thrombocytes. Given recent discoveries of non-ciliary roles for IFTs, we examined the possibility that IFT122 affects thrombocyte function. We studied the role of IFT122 in thrombocyte function. We also found that IFT122 plays a central role in thrombocyte activation initiated by the agonists ADP, collagen, PAR-1 peptide and epinephrine. Although the receptors for ADP, PAR-1 peptide and epinephrine are present in the zebrafish genome, the collagen receptor GPVI was missing. In this study, we identified G6fL as a collagen receptor in zebrafish thrombocytes. Furthermore, IFT knockdown results in reduction in Wnt signaling. The Wnt signaling has been shown to be involved in megakaryocyte proliferation and proplatelets production. Therefore, defects in IFT could lead to thrombocytopenia. Splenectomy is performed in humans to treat such conditions. Therefore, in this study we developed a survival surgery protocol for splenectomy. We have shown that number of thrombocytes and their microparticles increase following splenectomy in zebrafish. Thus overall the studies on thrombocyte function in zebrafish could enhance fundamental knowledge on hemostasis and may provide future target candidates for therapies.
Date: May 2017
Creator: Pulipakkam Radhakrishnan, Uvaraj

The Effectiveness of Hybrid Problem-Based Learning versus Manual-Based Learning in the Microbiology Laboratory

Description: Promising results from the use of problem-based learning (PBL) as a teaching method in medical programs have encouraged many institutions to incorporate PBL into their curricula. This study investigates how applying hybrid-PBL (H-PBL) in a microbiology laboratory impacts students' higher-order thinking as compared to applying a lecture-based pedagogy. The experimental design compared the learning outcomes of two groups of students: the control group and the H-PBL group, for whom PBL cases comprised 30% of the curriculum. Both groups were taught basic skills for the microbiology lab by the same instructor. Using the traditional teaching style for the control group, the instructor offered each student what they needed for their experiments. The H-PBL group practiced experimental design, data analysis, theory proposal, and created research questions by using six study cases that were closely linked to the area of study. The outcome was measured using a pre- and post- assessment consisting of 24 questions that was designed by following Bloom's taxonomy of learning levels. A one-way ANOVA was used to analyze the data. The results showed that for the first three levels of Bloom's taxonomy— knowledge, comprehension, and application—there were no statistically significant differences between the H-PBL and control group gain scores as determined by a one-way ANOVA. For the knowledge level, f (1, 78) = .232, and p = .632; for the comprehension level, f (1, 78) = .004, and p = .951; and for the application level f (1, 78) =. 028, and p =.863. On the other hand, the gain scores for the three higher levels—analysis, evaluation, and creativity—improved for the H-PBL group. The analysis level showed statistically significant differences, with f (1, 78) = 4.012, and p = .049. Also, there were statistically significant differences in students' performance at the evaluation level, with f (1, 78) = 11.495, ...
Date: May 2017
Creator: Alharbi, Najwa

Cardiovascular Fetal Programming in Quail (Colinus virginianus), An Avian Comparative Model

Description: The consequences of early embryonic insults and how they affect subsequent life reflects the emerging concept of "fetal programming". The aim of this project is to study the effects of embryonic insults as they subsequently manifest themselves in adults, with emphasis on the heart and vasculature. My experiments establish that fetal programming operates on the bobwhite quail inducing similar changes as those observed in mammalians and other birds. The quail's fast development provides reliable data in a short period of time than other avian models (e.g. domestic chicken). Data on quail showed a correlation between egg mass and hatchling mass; where small eggs produce small hatchlings but a high mortality made it impractical as a stressor for this study. Hypoxia was used as a stressor during embryonic incubation, where it induced a low hatching weight in quail that was not observable in adult birds. Morphological measurements demonstrated an increased ventricular collagen content and reduced ventricular lumen in birds in adults incubated in hypoxia consistent with hypertension. The hematological analyzes showed few differences indicating organ remodeling instead of hematopoietic compensation. The assessment of vascular reactivity pointed out an impaired endothelium dependent relaxation commonly associated to hypertension in birds and mammals. Fetal programming could be a widespread response to an adverse prenatal environment in endotherms and the resulting data from this work contributes to our understanding of fetal programming in vertebrates and its long term consequences.
Date: December 2016
Creator: Flores Santin, Josele

Maternal Transfer of Dietary Methylmercury and Implications for Embryotoxicity in Fathead Minnows (Pimephales promelas)

Description: Mercury (Hg) is a ubiquitous environmental contaminant, which is capable of global atmospheric transport. As a result, even the most pristine aquatic ecosystems are affected by atmospheric Hg deposition, following which microbial transformation yield organic Hg forms, the most concerning of which is methylmercury (MeHg). Methylmercury is capable of bioaccumulation and biomagnification in food webs, resulting in potentially toxic body burdens due to regular dietary exposure in long-lived organisms at higher trophic levels. It is also a molecular mimic of some endogenous amino acids, providing a route of transfer from mother to offspring via large amino acid transporters. Exposure during neurodevelopment can lead to serious, irreversible neurological dysfunction, associated with a variety of cognitive and motor abnormalities across species. The present studies evaluate the effects of maternally-transferred dietary MeHg, at environmentally relevant concentrations on early life stage fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas). Embryos were collected from adult fatheads exposed to one of three diets with varying concentrations of MeHg for 30 days. Adult reproductive metrics were also monitored over the course of the study, with results indicating no effects on spawning frequency, clutch size, or total egg output. In embryos, Hg concentration was a function of female diet and the duration (number of days) of female exposure. Offspring spawned in tanks administered the low Hg diet displayed altered embryonic movement patterns (hyperactivity), decreased time to hatch, decreased mean larval size, and alterations to several metabolite abundances when compared with controls. Significantly altered metabolites include those associated with cellular energetics, fatty acid metabolism, and polyamine synthesis, indicating current environmental exposure scenarios are sufficient to disrupt important cellular pathways. Dysregulation of the dopaminergic system of embryos is also characterized, and may be a possible mechanism by which hyperactive behaviors are observed in these embryos. Offspring from tanks administered the high Hg diet exhibited ...
Date: December 2016
Creator: Bridges, Kristin

Effects of Brain Brain Injury on Primary Cilia of Glial Cells and Pericytes

Description: Glial cells maintain homeostasis that is essential to neuronal function. Injury to the nervous system leads to the activation and proliferation of glial cells and pericytes, which helps to wall off the damaged region and restore homeostatic conditions. Sonic hedgehog is a mitogen which is implicated in injury-induced proliferation of glial cells and pericytes. The mitogenic effects of sonic hedgehog require primary cilia, but the few reports on glial or pericyte primary cilia do not agree about their abundance and did not address effects of injury on these cilia. Primary cilia are microtubule-based organelles that arise from the centrosome and are retracted before cells divide. Depending on cell type, proteins concentrated in cilia can transduce several mitotic, chemosensory, or mechanosensory stimuli. The present study investigated effects of stab wound injury on the incidence and length of glial and pericyte primary cilia in the area adjacent to the injury core. Astrocytes, polydendrocytes and pericytes were classified by immunohistochemistry based on cell-type markers. In normal adult mice, Arl13b immunoreactive primary cilia were present in a majority of each cell type examined: astrocytes, 98±2%; polydendrocytes, 87±6%; and pericytes, 79±13% (mean ± SEM). Three days post-injury, cilium incidence decreased by 24% in astrocytes (p< 0.008) and 41% in polydendrocytes (p< 0.002), but there was no significant effect in pericytes. Polydendrocytes labeled with the cell cycle marker Ki67 were less likely to have cilia compared to resting, Ki67- polydendrocytes. Considering post-injury rates of proliferation for astrocytes and polydendrocytes, it appears that resorption of cilia due to cell cycle entry may account for much of the loss of cilia in polydendrocytes but was not sufficient to account for the loss of cilia in astrocytes. Under normal conditions, astrocytes rarely divide, and they maintain non-overlapping territories. However, three days after injury, there was a 7-fold increase in ...
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Date: December 2016
Creator: Coronel, Marco Vinicio

Analysis of Students' Knowledge, Perceptions, and Interest in Engineering Post Teacher Participation in a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Professional Development

Description: This study examined the impact of the National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Teachers (RET) in engineering at University of North Texas on students after their teachers' participation in the program. Students were evaluated in terms of self-efficacy, knowledge of engineering, perceptions of engineering, and interest in engineering. A 22-item Likert pre/post survey was used for analysis, and participants included 589 students from six high schools, one middle school, and one magnet school. Paired surveys were analyzed to determine if there was a statistically significant difference in attitudes and knowledge after teachers implemented lessons from their time at the RET. Surveys were also analyzed to determine if there was a statistically significant difference in student response based on gender or student school type. Results showed no statistically significant difference in the self-efficacy of students, however there was a statistically significant difference in knowledge, perceptions, and interest in engineering. In addition, there was a statistically significant difference between genders on an isolated question, and seven out of the 22 Likert questions showed a statistically significant difference between student school types.
Date: December 2016
Creator: Reeder, Christina

Maturation of Endothermic Capacity within the Avian Developmental Spectrum: A Characterization of Thermoregulatory Metamorphosis

Description: 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.
Date: August 2016
Creator: Sirsat, Sarah Goy

Cytochrome P450 Gene Expression Modulates Anoxia Sensitivity in Caenorhabditis Elegans

Description: 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 ...
Date: August 2016
Creator: Quan, Daniel L

Residential Grid-Connected Photovoltaics Adoption in North Central Texas: Lessons from the Solarize Plano Project

Description: 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.
Date: August 2016
Creator: Jack, Katherine G.

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

Description: 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.
Date: August 2016
Creator: Garcia Colin, Monica