Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Moore, Biology
The country lizard and the city lizard: Comparing spatial genetic structure of Galápagos lava lizards occurring in natural and human-modified landscapes Fauna of the Galápagos Islands is under increasing threat due to the growing demands of human activity. The impact of anthropogenic pressures is unknown for lava lizards (genus Microlophus), a group of nine species common throughout the Galápagos. Our main objective is to fill a knowledge gap on the ecology and spatial genetic structure of Galápagos lava lizards. M. bivitattus genetic samples were collected across a gradient of natural and human-modified habitats on the island of San Cristóbal in 2017 and 2018. We plan use microsatellite genotypes to 1) estimate dispersal distances, 2) compare levels of gene flow and inbreeding, and 3) examine the distribution of related individuals across the landscape and in relation to various landscape factors (e.g., habitat type, elevation). The results of this study will increase knowledge of lava lizard ecology and provide novel information on the impacts of human development on endemic lizards, informing conservation efforts on the islands.
Faculty Mentor: Brad Wallar, Chemistry
Characterization of Novel Triazole-Containing Boronic Acid Transition State Inhibitors (BATSIs) of Acinetobacter-derived Cephalosporinase (ADC-7)
Much of the resistance to β-lactam antibiotics in the multidrug resistant bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii is attributed to its production of β-lactamase enzymes that deactivate β-lactams by hydrolyzing the amide of the defining lactam ring. In order to develop more effective treatment against multidrug resistant pathogens like Acinetobacter baumannii, we have characterized a series of five novel Boronic Acid Transition State Inhibitors (BATSIs) for activity against the class C β-lactamase, Acinetobacter-derived cephalosporinase-7 (ADC-7). This series of BATSIs is characterized by the presence of a triazole ring that allows for easier synthesis and modification than previously studied BATSIs. Overall, our structure-function analysis suggests the triazole BATSIs provide a convenient and intriguing template for further modification to increase their binding affinity for ADC-7.
Faculty Mentor: Sok Kean Khoo, Cell and Molecular Biology
Beta-synuclein as treatment for Parkinson’s disease in Drosophila
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder that impacts 1-2% of the elderly population. PD is characterized by the loss of midbrain dopaminergic neurons, leading primarily to motor impairment. A further hallmark of PD is alpha-synuclein (aSyn) protein aggregates known as Lewy bodies. Lewy bodies can be targeted by beta-synuclein (bSyn), a protein homolog of aSyn, that has been shown to reduce aSyn aggregation. In this study, aSyn transgenic flies are fed bSyn peptide to determine the effects of bSyn on PD symptoms. Assessment of motor function will be evaluated by locomotion assays while Lewy bodies inhibition will be observed using immunohistochemistry confocal microscopy within the flies CNS. The use of bSyn to treat motor impairment and protein aggregation in fly can potentially lead to more effective and noninvasive treatments for patients with PD.
Faculty Mentor: Cynthia Thompson, Chemistry, Biomedical Sciences
Controlling for Contamination in Scent Mark Analysis of the Common Marmoset Monkey (Callithrix jacchus)
Primate olfaction research has been limited by an inability to characterize scents in animals’ natural environment. Use of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to ascertain the chemical compounds of in-field scent marks has been difficult due to contamination. To determine whether we can control for contamination, we collected airborne scent samples from common marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus) at Tapacurá Field Station in Pernambuco, Brazil using an Inficon Hapsite portable GC-MS unit. After, a control sample of nearby bark and ambient air was obtained to assess background contamination. The number of chemicals found in the gas chromatogram of each sample and control was analyzed. There were significantly more compounds in scent marks than in controls (x ̅difference = 5.6 peaks, t63 = 7.1, p < 0.001). This suggests that compounds unique to the signaling animal were detected, indicating a possibility to control for contaminants by subtracting background compounds.
Faculty Mentor: Amy Russell, Biology
Disease Detective-Work Through Demographic Analysis: European Bats Provide Historical dHints for White-Nose Syndrome Management in North America
White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), has drastically affected North American bats. However, WNS has been found in European bat species such as Myotis myotis, the greater mouse-eared bat, without the same morbidity. There is evidence to suggest that European bats have previously evolved adaptations that make them more tolerant of Pd. Thousands of years ago, European bat populations experienced genetic bottlenecks. If extant European bat populations are the descendants of survivors of an ancient WNS epidemic, these populations may hold clues to direct bat conservation practices in North America. We are using Bayesian models to reconstruct the evolutionary histories of M. myotis and European P. destructans using previously published data. Here we present data showing changes in effective population size of both M. myotis and Pd through several millenia before the Last Glacial Maximum.