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Investigating Human Gut Microbiome in Obesity with Machine Learning Methods
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 ...
Reproduction and Metabolic Responses to Acute and Chronic Hypoxia in Ovoviviparous Blaberid Cockroaches, with a Focus on Blaptica dubia
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 ...
Neurological Responses to a Glucose Diet in Caenorhabditis elegans
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.
The Role of Thyroid Hormone across Avian Development Spectrum: Investigations on Systemic Development, Metabolism and Ontogeny of Endothermy
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.
Developing a Phylogeny Based Machine Learning Algorithm for Metagenomics
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 ...
Delivery of CRISPR/Cas9 into Blood Cells of Zebrafish: Potential for Genome Editing in Somatic Cells
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.
Markov Model of Segmentation and Clustering: Applications in Deciphering Genomes and Metagenomes
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 ...
Generating Molecular Biology Tools to Investigate the Ca2+ Binding Ability of Arabidopsis TON2
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.
The Acute Toxic Effects of the Synthetic Cannabinoid, JWH-018 on the Cardiovascular and Neuroendocrine System in Ictalurus punctatus (Channel Catfish)
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 ...
Evaluating the Role of UV Exposure and Recovery Regimes in PAH Photo-Induced Toxicity
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.
Development of a Targeted Protein Residue Analysis Approach in Archaeology
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.
The Effects of Air Pollution on the Intestinal Microbiota: A Novel Approach to Assess How Gut Microbe Interactions with the Environment Affect Human Health
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.
Development of von Willebrand Factor Zebrafish Mutant Using CRISPR/Cas9 Mediated Genome Editing
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.
Adrenergic and Cholinergic Regulation of Cardiovascular Function in Embryonic Neotropic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax basilianus)
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.
Studies on Zebrafish Thrombocyte Function
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.
The Effectiveness of Hybrid Problem-Based Learning versus Manual-Based Learning in the Microbiology Laboratory
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, ...
Cardiovascular Fetal Programming in Quail (Colinus virginianus), An Avian Comparative Model
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.
Maternal Transfer of Dietary Methylmercury and Implications for Embryotoxicity in Fathead Minnows (Pimephales promelas)
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 ...
Effects of Brain Brain Injury on Primary Cilia of Glial Cells and Pericytes
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 ...
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
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.
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 ...
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 ...
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.
Identification and Characterization of an Arabidopsis thaliana Mutant with Tolerance to N-lauroylethanolamine
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 ...
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 ...
Role of GPR17 in Thrombocyte Aggregation in Adult Zebrafish
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.
Phenotypic Morphological Plasticity Induced by Environmental Salt Stress in the Brine Shrimp, Artemia franciscana
Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of an organism to express different phenotypes in response to biotic or abiotic environmental cues. The ability of an organism to make changes during development to adjust to changes in its environment is a key to survival. Sexually reproducing organisms that have short life cycles and that are easy to raise in the laboratory are more conducive for developmental phenotypic plasticity. Considerable research has already been carried out on the brine shrimp, Artemia franciscana, regarding its morphology due to changing salinities. There is, however, little research considering subsequent generations and how there morphology might be affected by parental experiences. This study has examined: 1) the morphological effects of different rearing regimes of different salinity levels, and 2) the epigenetic transgenerational transfer of these morphological traits in A. franciscana. Measurements included rate of growth (as measured by instar), body size, body length, and other morphological traits. A gradual increase to more hyperosmotic conditions during development produced brine shrimp that were larger in size and also more developmentally advanced. Salinity stress experienced by adults had increased the growth rate in the F1 offspring of A. franciscana. Collectively, these data indicate that Artemia franciscana is a tractable model for investigating phenotypic plasticity. These findings have added to the ever-growing field of developmental phenotypic plasticity while also providing more information on the natural history and adaptive abilities of A. franciscana.
A High-fat Meal Alters Post-prandial mRNA Expression of SIRT1, SIRT4, and SIRT6
Sirtuins (SIRT) regulate the transcription of various genes involved in the development of diet-induced obesity and chronic disease; however, it is unknown how they change acutely following a high-fat meal. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of a high-fat meal (65% kcals/d; 85% fat recommendation), on SIRT1-7 mRNA expression in blood leukocytes at 1, 3, and 5-h post-prandial. Men and women (N=24) reported to the lab following an overnight fast (>12H). Total RNA was isolated and reverse transcribed prior to using a Taqman qPCR technique with 18S rRNA as a normalizer to determine SIRT1-7 mRNA expression. An additional aliquot of serum was used to measure triglycerides. Data was analyzed using a RM ANOVA with P<0.05. Triglycerides (P<0.001; 124%) peaked at 3-h. SIRT 1 (P=0.004; 70%), and SIRT 6 (P=0.017; 53%) decreased expression at 3-h. SIRT4 (P=0.024) peaked at 5H relative to baseline (70%) and 3-h (68%). To our knowledge, this is the first study to report that consumption of a high-fat meal transiently alters SIRT mRNA expression consistent in a pattern that mirrors changes in serum triglycerides. Decrease in expression of SIRT1 and SIRT6 combined with an increased SIRT4 would be consistent with an increase in metabolic disease risk if maintained on a chronic basis.
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.
Identification of Hox Genes Controlling Thrombopoiesis in Zebrafish
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, ...
Environmental Modulation of the Onset of Air-breathing of the Siamese Fighting Fish and the Blue Gourami
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 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.
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.
Effects of Macrophyte Functional Diversity on Taxonomic and Functional Diversity and Stability of Tropical Floodplain Fish Assemblages
Multiple dimensions of biodiversity within and across producer and consumer guilds in the food web affect an ecosystem’s functionality and stability. Tropical and subtropical aquatic ecosystems, which are extremely diverse, have received much less attention than terrestrial ecosystems in regards to the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning. We conducted a field experiment that tested for effects of macrophyte functional diversity on diversity and stability of associated fish assemblages in floodplain lakes of the Upper Paraná River floodplain, Brazil. Three levels of macrophyte functional diversity were maintained through time in five floodplain lakes and response variables included various components of fish taxonomic and functional diversity and stability. Components of functional diversity of fish assemblages were quantified using a suite of ecomorphological traits that relate to foraging and habitat use. Response variables primarily distinguished macrophyte treatments from the control. Macrophyte treatments had, on average, double the number of species and total abundance than the control treatment, but only limited effects on stability. The high diversity treatment was essentially nested within the low diversity for assemblage structure and had similar or even slightly lower levels of species richness and abundance in most cases. Gymnotiformes and young-of-year were diverse and relatively abundant in macrophyte treatments contributing to the large differences in diversity between macrophyte and control treatments. Higher fish diversity in structured habitats compared to more homogenous habitats is likely associated with increased ecomorphological diversity to exploit heterogeneous microhabitats and resources provided by the macrophytes.
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, ...
Dynamics of Stream Fish Metacommunities in Response to Drought and Re-connectivity
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.
Effect of Acute Alcohol Ingestion on Resistance Exercise Induced mTORC1 Signaling in Human Muscle
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.
Cytotoxicity and Functional Toxicity of Mefloquine and the 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 ...
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.