2020 Virtual Expo
STEM 
Judging Round

Potential Utilization of Citrus Waste as a Source for Natural Food Preservatives

Student Author(s): Zoie Bunch, Senior (Biochemistry, Spanish)
Faculty Mentor(s): Nadja Cech (Chemistry & Biochemistry)

Abstract

An array of spoilage and pathogenic bacteria can contaminate food products, resulting in foodborne diseases as well as product degradation. The processing of citrus fruits results in large quantities of by-products which are generally discarded into the environment, posing the issue of waste disposal and increasing production costs. In this research project, the aim is to investigate the potential antimicrobial activity of orange peel extracts in order to progress toward the utilization of citrus waste as a waste reducing and cost lessening alternative to artificial additives. The peels from a commonly produced citrus fruit, the navel orange (Citrus sinensis), were extracted in methanol. The extract was partitioned using liquid-liquid extraction and the resulting layers were assessed for antimicrobial activity against Salmonella enterica and Staphylococcus aureus. Initial assessment shows similar levels of bacterial growth inhibition of both bacteria by a positive orange essential oil control and by the hexane layer. Future endeavors include further assessment of the antimicrobial activity of the extracts using bioassay guided fractionation and identifying and purifying antimicrobial compounds using mass spectrometry and column chromatography techniques.

Evaluating the In Vivo Antioxidant Properties of Phytochemical Extracts from an Ancient Grain Teff (Eragrostis tef)

Student Author(s): Christopher Cotter, Post-Bac (Biology)
Faculty Mentor(s): Ayalew Osena (Biology), Zhenquan Jia (Biology)

Abstract

Teff (Eragrostis tef) is a small grain cereal natively grown in East Africa, primarily Ethiopia, where it is a major staple crop. Teff is also grown in the United States, Australia, and South Africa primarily as a forage crop; however, it is gaining popularity since it is gluten-free, has a low glycemic index, and is rich in nutrients such as minerals, amino acids, and water-soluble vitamins. Additionally, teff is considered to have a high antioxidant capacity. Studies based on cell-free biochemical assays using small free radicals have suggested the presence of antioxidant activity in teff. However, this has never been validated in a physiologically relevant model of cell culture. This study evaluated the antioxidant activity of phytochemical extracts from teff in THP-1 human cell lines. The current findings and future directions of this project will be presented.


Fungal Compounds from the Underground Railroad Tree Inhibit Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

Student Author(s): William Crandall, Senior (Chemistry)
Faculty Mentor(s): Nadja Cech (Chemistry & Biochemistry)

Abstract

Antimicrobial resistant (AMR) infections are an increasingly important epidemic. Estimates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) predict, in the year 2050, 10 million deaths per year will be caused by AMR infections or complications thereof1. This estimate is greater than yearly deaths caused by all types of cancer. One of these AMR pathogens is Staphylococcus aureus and more specifically the genetically mutated and more clinically relevant strain, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus known as MRSA. Natural products have been a leading source of drugs and of antibiotics and are still largely unexplored. Of all the anti-infective small molecule drugs on the market, 70% are derived from natural products2. Fungi were isolated from the outermost bark of a 300 plus year old tulip poplar tree, which was present during the time of the underground railroad in the Guilford Forest in Greensboro, NC. Two fungi found in the tree have shown capability of inhibiting the growth of MRSA. Xylaria sp., one of the fungi isolated from the tree yielded greater biological activity. Small molecules produced by Xylaria sp. were isolated and structurally elucidated to using liquid chromatography coupled to high resolution mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance.


Composition and Orbits of Stars and Gas in a Tidally Disrupted Starburst Galaxy

Student Author(s): Kamara Culbreath, Sophomore (Physics and Astronomy)
Faculty Mentor(s): Alicia Aarnio (Physics and Astronomy)

Abstract

Due to the high rate of star formation in M82 and its interaction with its neighboring galaxy (M81), we believe that the motion of the stars and gas, the orbits, will associate with the motion of stars and gas of a neighbor. Which we suspect that there is going to be a unique type of chemical composition in M82 based on the high rate of star formation. We will take spectra using the 3.5m telescope at Apache Point Observatory to form a stronger understanding of the impact of tidal interaction on the motions of stars and gas in M82. From the finding, this will allow us to form a model of the motion of the galaxy based on the stars and the gases in M82. Thus, we will measure the radial velocities shown for lines that form at a distinctly different location in the galaxy. Also, comparing our data to a different location in the M82 galaxy from looking at the strengths of spectral lines of various elements. Furthermore, build a python pipeline script for the data collected to process and analyze the information/data that the observatory collected. Our goal is to process our data from Apache Point Observatory and publish it for compilation with other observations in the astronomical literature to construct a fuller understanding of the properties of M82.


Photochemical Approach in Catalysis to Harness the Oxidizing Power of Molecular Oxygen

Student Author(s): Katherine Dezarn, Sophomore (Chemistry)
Faculty Mentor(s): Shabnam Hematian (Chemistry)

Abstract

Cytochrome P450 enzymes are an important class of heme-containing proteins that are involved in many metabolic pathways and act as monoxygenases to initiate a diverse range of recalcitrant reactions such as the metabolism of drugs, biodegradation of xenobiotics or biosynthesis of hormones. These enzymes are capable of performing highly selective oxidative chemistry exquisitely using molecular dioxygen as their terminal oxidant, whereas high-energy oxidants are typically required to perform similar transformations by their synthetic analogues in the laboratories. Here the photolysis of our novel μ-oxo heme/copper complexes, [(porphyrinate)FeIII−O−CuII(L)]+, are explored to develop a photocatalyst for light-driven aerobic oxidation of various substrates including hydrocarbons. The synthesis and characterization of the heterometallic μ-oxo-heme/copper complexes will be discussed. The susceptibility of μ-oxo species to photo-cleavage to generate postulated active intermediates (i.e., Cpd I and II) and subsequent reactivity in both anaerobic and aerobic conditions will also be presented.


Mahonia aquifolium as a New Drug Lead for MRSA

Student Author(s): Amanda Douglas, Junior (Nutrition)
Faculty Mentor(s): Nadja Cech (Chemistry)

Abstract

Mahonia aquifolium, commonly known as oregon grape, originates in the mountain regions of the Pacific Northwest U.S. It is traditionally used for maladies including eye infections, acne, skin conditions, and urinary tract infections (UTI). The medicinal component, berberine of the oregon grape plant, has shown to have antibacterial properties, but no new properties have been identified since. MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, can be found either on the skin or within the nose and is spread either from person to person contact or by fomite from direct contact. MRSA strain is resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics such as amoxicillin and penicillin, therefore making it difficult for healthcare professionals to treat.

According to the United States’ Center of Disease Control (CDC), there have been 119,000 Staph aureus related infections and almost 20,000 deaths in 2017. By using bioassay-guided fractionation that includes extraction, partition, bioassay, and column chromatography techniques, the investigation will assess the bioactivity of oregon grape and identify the antimicrobial compounds responsible for the tested bioactivity. According to the initial MRSA inhibition bioassay, ethyl acetate extract had the highest bio-inhibition and the focus will be on isolating the bioactive constituents from this extract.


The Role of the WNT5A Isoforms in Bone Dynamics

Student Author(s): Ihotu Ijaola, Senior (Biology), Stephanie Woods, Senior (Biology)
Faculty Mentor(s): Karen Katula (Biology)

Abstract

Bone is a living, hard connective tissue, that is continually being broken down and reformed due to the activity of two cell types osteoblasts and osteoclasts. The balance between these cells determines the health of bone tissue cells. In this study we focused on the role of WNT5A isoforms in controlling the development of the osteoblast and osteoclast. WNT5A is a secreted protein that binds to cell surface receptors and initiates a signaling pathway. hFOB1.19 ( pre-osteoblast) and Raw 264.7( preosteoclast) cells were treated with WNT5A isoforms L(A) and S(B).  Differentiation of these cells types into were assessed by measuring specific markers (osteoclast-RANK receptor; Osteoblast RUNX2, osteocalcin, osterix and LRP/6 receptor). Marker transcript levels were measured by quantitative PCR. We found that both isoforms enhanced expression of cell-specific markers. This indicates that WNT5A isoforms play a role in regulating the major bone remodeling cells. Hence WNT5A isoforms may serve as a target for modifying bone tissue dynamics and bone-related diseases plus conditions.


Plant Invasion Effects on Inset Abundance in Mixed Grass Prairies in Wyoming

Student Author(s): Katielyn Johnston, Senior (Biology)
Faculty Mentor(s): Sally Koerner (Biology)

Abstract

Invasive weeds are a global problem in grasslands because they often harm the native animal communities. Here, I examined how invasive grasses, Bromus tectorum and B. arvensis, impact insect biodiversity in Thunder Basin Grassland in Wyoming. Insects were collected with a modified leaf blower from plots with varying levels of invasion (0, 25, 50, 75, and 100% invaded). Then, I sorted the insects from debris, put them into separate containers, and weighed each individual. I hypothesized that as the percentage of invasive weeds increases the abundance of insects will decrease. Biomass is the weight of the insects that have been collected and weighed. To see the difference in biomass across the plots ranging from 0% to 100% invasion I will add up all the insect’s weight in the plots of that percentage and take an average to compare to the other plots. Preliminary data suggests my hypothesis is supported because the plots with 0% invasion have more biomass than the 25% plots. This study is necessary to determine if invasive weeds in grasslands have a negative impact on insect biomass.


Growth and Development of Arabidopsis thaliana Wild-type Genotypes in Gravitational Stress Conditions

Student Author(s): Alena Jones, Senior (Chemistry)
Faculty Mentor(s): John Z. Kiss (Biology)

Abstract

Plant development is affected by numerous stressors, but some genotypes are more resistant than others. In spaceflight, on the Moon or Mars, plants experience stress from reduced gravitational acceleration. Plants are crucial for astronauts as they account for food, oxygen, and psychological benefits. The goal of this study is to identify which of the 100 Arabidopsis thaliana wild-type genotypes are resistant to gravitational stress. A 2D-clinostat, rotating at 1.25 rpm, was used to simulate gravitational stress. Plates with surface-sterilized seeds were placed on the clinostat for seven days while a control group was kept vertical. Plate images were analyzed with Fiji software to measure shoot length, main root length, number of secondary roots, total root length, and number of root hairs/total root length. T-tests were used to compare clinorotated and vertical seedlings from each genotype. Preliminary data from 37 genotypes suggest that majority of clinorotated seedlings have reduced shoot and root growth when compared to vertically grown. One genotype, CIBC-5, has potential for gravitational stress resistance based on shoot and root growth. Several genotypes will be used for further studies based on other parameters. The next goal is to identify which genes are involved in developing resistance to gravitation stress.


Effects of Carbon Nanodots on Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha-induced Pro-inflammatory Cytokine Interleukin 8 In Vitro and In Vivo

Student Author(s): Zi Yae Kang, Post-Bac (Biochemistry)
Faculty Mentor(s): Zhenquan Jia (Biology)

Abstract

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death globally. One of the most common types of CVD is atherosclerosis. Expression of inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-8 plays an important role in triggering endothelial damage and hence significantly contributes to the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis.  Carbon nanodots (CNDs) are a new class of carbon nanomaterials. This nanoparticle has attracted considerable attention due to its small size, green synthesized approach, and unique photoluminescent characteristics, which give it great potential in drug delivery. However, the effects of CNDs on the expression of IL-8 remains unknown. This study investigated the effects of CNDs on cell viability and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α)-induced expression of IL-8 in human microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC-1) and C57BL/6 mice. Results demonstrated that CNDs at concentrations of 0, 0.03, 0.1, 0.3 mg/mL did not have a negative effect on cell viability in HMEC-1. Interestingly, the treatment of CNDs caused a significant decrease in TNF-α induced expression of IL-8, suggesting that CNDs have an anti-inflammatory effect in human endothelial cells. These results help to understand the toxicity and anti-inflammatory effect of CNDs, which would shine a light on the potential biomedical uses of CNDs in the treatment of atherosclerosis.


Embryonic Development in Fish is Hindered by Exposure to Environmentally Relevant Concentrations of Glyphosate

Student Author(s): Deborah Killian, Senior (Biology)
Faculty Mentor(s): Ramji Bhandari (Biology), Xuegeng Wang (Biology)

Abstract

Glyphosate-based herbicide (GBH) use is increasing yearly. Although GBH’s target the enzymatic pathway in plants, the effects on endocrine systems of vertebrate organisms are widely unknown. The present study examined the effects of glyphosate exposure on embryo development and expression of thyroid genes in Japanese Medaka fish (Oryzias Latipes).  The Hd-rR medaka embryos were exposed to Roundup containing 0.05, 0.5, 5, 10, and 20 mg/L glyphosate (glyphosate acid equivalent) from 8 hours post-fertilization through 14 days post-fertilization. Roundup exposure resulted in delayed hatching and increased developmental deformities, growth, and embryo mortality. The lowest concentration (0.05 mg/L) and the highest concentration (20 mg/L) of glyphosate in Roundup induced similar phenotypes in embryos and juveniles. Gene expression analysis revealed a significant decrease in acetylcholine esterase (ache) and thyroid hormone receptor alpha (thra) mRNA levels in juveniles exposed to 0.05 mg/L and 20 mg/L glyphosate. The present results demonstrate that Roundup exposure affects early development of medaka in a non-monotonic dose response manner and that environmentally relevant concentrations of Roundup can cause endocrine disruption in fish embryos and juveniles.


Applications of Artemisia annua for Anti-malarial Drugs

Student Author(s): Joseph Mangun, Post-Bac (Biology)
Faculty Mentor(s): Nadja Cech (Chemistry)

Abstract

Malaria continues to be a worldwide health concern, with over 200 million cases reported in 2019 and over 400,000 deaths. While some treatments do exist, the there is room for improvement in achieving widespread and affordable treatment for many regions across the globe. Given its known anti-malarial properties, the plant Artemisia annua has the potential to be the basis for further breakthroughs in the production of anti-malarial drugs.  While whole portions of the plant are known to have therapeutic properties, individual components of the plant demonstrated less potency, which suggests that the plant contains synergistic chemistry within its components. The goal of this research project is on the role of specific bioactive compounds present in Artemisia annua, with a focus on identifying the constituents of the plant that have bioactivity so that more potent forms of anti-malarial drug can be developed. Current research supports the idea that the component labeled CYP2B6 is metabolized in conjunction with plant samples, which supports the idea that this compound is metabolically active alongside Artemisia annua. According the initial bioassay, the ethyl acetate extract contains bioactive compounds that can potentially become new drug leads for malaria, and so the project also seeks to consider possible compounds for drug leads that will reduce the cost of production and make the drug more accessible.


Transgenetic Heat Treatment of the Tobacco Plant

Student Author(s): Emiri Michishita, Senior (Chemistry)
Faculty Mentor(s): Ayalew Osena (Biology)

Abstract

Under abiotic stress such as high temperature due to climate change, plants will suffer oxidative stress due to accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as peroxide and superoxide radicals. Plant tend to increase the activity of antioxidants which destroy reactive oxygen species (ROS) but the activity of plant antioxidant enzymes is limited to ambient temperatures. Whereas, archaea such as Sulfolobus solfataricus are adapted to hotter areas with optimum temperature of 75oC. In this project, S. solfataricus superoxide dismutase (SsSOD) will be constitutively expressed in the transgenic tobacco plant with the purpose of increasing the tolerance of plants to heat stress. we construct the expression cassette of SsSOD in a pSAT plasmid and the expression cassette is assembled into pPZP-NPTII binary vector. The binary vector is transformed into Agrobacterium tumefaciens which will inset the gene into tobacco (Nicotiana benthamiana) leaf segments. The leaf segments will be cultured on selection media containing antibiotic Kanamycin. Regenerated shoots will be transferred to root induction media. Putative transgenic lines will be validated by PCR using genomic DNA as a template. We expect that transgenic tabocco expressing SsSOD will be more tolerant to heat stress that control plants.


Analysis of Gravitational Stress-Resistance in Arabidopsis thaliana Plants

Student Author(s): Melika Osareh, Sophomore (Biology)
Faculty Mentor(s): John Kiss and Tatsiana Shymanovich (Biology)

Abstract

Growing plants during long-term space missions can help provide astronauts with food, oxygen, and psychological benefits. However, growing plants in altered gravity conditions can be challenging because plants suffer from gravitational stress. To enhance current knowledge on growing plants during space missions, this research project aimed to find genotypes of Arabidopsis thaliana, that have resistance to gravitational stress. In this project, 17 wild-type genotypes of A. thaliana were tested and analyzed for their gravitational stress-resistance by comparing seedlings grown under gravitational stress treatment via continuous rotation at 1.25rpm against ones grown vertically (control). Average shoot length, main root length, number of secondary roots, total root length, and number of root hairs were compared from rotated and vertical seedlings for each genotype. Although most genotypes were negatively affected by the gravitational stress, one genotype, CIBC-5, showed no difference among all growth parameters and was expected to adapt better for growing in altered gravity conditions. Genotypes Eden-1, FAB-2, and Cvi-0 also showed an increase in total root length and may be of interest for further study. Future plans include identification of genes essential for gravitational-stress resistance in plants to engineer plant varieties that will grow well during space missions.


Isolating Fungal Secondary Metabolites as a Source of Novel Drugs Leads

Student Author(s): Chris Roberts, Junior (Chemistry)
Faculty Mentor(s): Nicholas Oberlies (Chemistry)

Abstract

In the United States approximately 40% of individuals will be diagnosed with cancer within their lifetime, and for every 100,000 cases, 171.2 will be fatal. According to the NIH, approximately 600,000 people have died from cancer in 2019 alone.  It is estimated that nearly half of anti-cancer drugs and antibiotics was derived from a natural source, like plants, bacteria, and fungi.  Fungi are an under investigated source for novel anticancer drug leads. It is estimated that there are between 1.5 and 5 million fungal species that inhabit the earth, and approximately 135,000 have been described, with only a fraction being chemically investigated. The fungal secondary metabolites were extracted, and the extract was separated using bioactive guided fractionation and several chromatographic techniques. The pure compounds were characterized by Mass Spectrometry and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and tested against human melanoma, human breast cancer, and human ovarian cancer.


Experimental Evolution of Magnetite Nanoparticle Resistance in Escherichia coli.

Student Author(s): LaShunta Rodgers, Senior (Biology), Daisha Campbell, Post-Bac (Biology), Constance Staley, Post-Bac (Chemistry & Biochemistry)
Faculty Mentor(s): Joseph Graves (Biology), Jude Ewunkem (Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering), Misty Thomas (Dept. Biology, NCATSU)

Abstract

There has been an increased usage of metallic antimicrobial materials to control multi-drug resistant bacteria, yet there is a corresponding need to know if this usage may lead to resulting genetic adaptations that produce more dangerous bacterial varieties. Our research group has utilized experimental evolution to produce Escherichia coli K-12 MG1655 strains resistant to excess iron (II and III) sulfate with increased resistance to silver, gallium, and traditional antibiotics. Genomic analysis identified intergenic/pseudogene mutations in several genes in the iron (II) and (III)-resistant lines. Gene expression studies demonstrated a profound difference in regulation of some genes chosen for their association with iron and general metal metabolism between the iron (II and III) resistant and control populations.

Here we continue the study of iron resistance by utilizing experimental evolution to generate 5 populations that are resistant to magnetite nanoparticles (FeNP1—5).  Preliminary data shows that by 21 days, FeNP-selected populations showed superior 24-hr growth from 500—2,500 mg/L magnetite, gallium, silver, copper, tetracycline, ampicillin, chloramphenicol and rifampicin compared to controls. Whole genome and gene expression studies will be conducted to test if the genomic foundations to iron nanoparticle resistance match those determined in ionic iron (II) and iron (III).


Regulation of Extrahypothalamic Kisspeptin in the Medaka Brain by BPA

Student Author(s): Alexis Starr, Senior (Biology), Deborah Killian, Senior (Biology)
Faculty Mentor(s): Ramji Bhandari (Biology)

Abstract

The physiologically active peptide, kisspeptin, has been shown to initiate sexual maturation and ovulation by activating GnRH neurons in several vertebrae species. However, despite a wide kisspeptin (KISS) receptor distribution in the brain, especially in the preoptic area and hypothalamus, the research focus has mostly been confined to the kisspeptin regulation of GnRH neurons and reproduction. We have demonstrated that an exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical compound that leaches out of plastics, results in an increase in expression of kisspeptin and their receptor mRNA levels in the brain without altering GnRH expression. This change was correlated with an increased impairment of fertility in the male medaka fish. In the present study, it was hypothesized that kisspeptin and their receptors are localized to extrahypothalamic areas including nucleus preopticus and that BPA exposure stimulates their expression leading to activation of isotocin/vasotocin neurons leading to alteration in mating behavior in males. Determination of the expression pattern of Kiss mRNAs their receptors in the hypothalamic and extrahypothalamic area of medaka brain and their regulation by BPA is currently in progress and the results will be presented at the 14th URSCO meeting.


Why Do People Drink Bottled Water: A Geographic Study of Bottled Water Consumption in Greensboro, North Carolina

Student Author(s): Stephanie Stephens, Senior (Environmental and Sustainability Studies)
Faculty Mentor(s): Dr. Sarah Praskievicz (Geography, Environment, and Sustainability)

Abstract

Freshwater, one of the most important resources in the world, is bottled and sold as a commodity. Emerging contaminants, plastic pollution, and water scarcity are all issues we face now and ever more pressingly in the future. Prior research has examined why people drink bottled water on a national scale; this study is innovative because we are focusing on bottled water consumption within a single city. We have found that more people in low-income areas drink bottled water inside and outside of their homes and are concerned about tap-water contamination. Understanding why people drink bottled water is crucial to promoting a more sustainable future in water quality and pollution reduction. In spring 2020, I will visit low-income neighborhoods of Greensboro, NC and give surveys, test water from homes, and conduct interviews on how people feel about tap water in comparison to bottled water. Testing the water in the homes will also reveal if heavy metals like lead could influence tap-water quality as it pertains to taste and safety. The hope is to restore faith in tap-water quality, understand bottled-water consumption at the consumer level, and make sure people are drinking safe water.


Characterization of Transgenic Tobacco Constitutively Expressing Pyrococcus furiosus Small Heat Shock Protein (PfsHSP20)

Student Author(s): Helina Talbot, Junior (Biology)
Faculty Mentor(s): Ayalew Osena (Biology)

Abstract

This paper introduces ​Pyrococcus furiosus ​SHSP20 constructively expressed in plants to increase resilient to high temperature. In this experiment, SHSP 20 is extracted from an arechae, ​pyrococcus furiosus​. The archaea live in extreme temperatures such as volcanic areas. Construct T0 lines of tobacco using 35s promoter to conduct DNA extraction. Also, conduct heat treatment on T2 lines using promoter HvHSP. Expressing SHSP 20 in tobacco can help the plant resist extreme temperatures.


Genetic Characterization of CG30383: a Gene Essential for Meiotic Chromosome Segregation in Drosophila melanogaster

Student Author(s): Sean Thornton, Senior (Biology) Sarah Pellizzari, Junior (Biology)
Faculty Mentor(s): Dean Tomkiel (Biology)

Abstract

Meiosis is the process by which haploid gametes are produced from diploid cells. We are characterizing mutants in the model organism D. melanogaster that disrupt meiotic chromosome segregation. Here, we describe a new mutation that alters both male and female meiosis.  We used recombination and deficiency mapping and whole genome sequencing to identify a frameshift mutation in CG30383. Complementation tests revealed that a P element insertion in CG30383 as well as a deletion of the gene fail to complement. No previous meiotic function has been ascribed to this gene, and analysis of the predicted protein product revealed no conserved features. Genetic tests of chromosome transmission indicated that all allelic combinations cause Meiosis I nondisjunction of both sex and fourth chromosomes in males and females. Meiosis II nondisjunction of the sex chromosomes was also observed in males. Cytological examination of male meiosis using Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization suggests that the mono-orientation of sister chromatids at meiosis I is disrupted.  Thus, this gene may encode a protein involved in the monopolin complex, which ensures coorientation of sister kinetochores at meiosis I so that homologous chromosomes properly segregate.


The Plant Arabidopsis thaliana Responds Differently in a Ground-based Microgravity Simulation Study

Student Author(s): Megan Toler, Senior (Biology)
Faculty Mentor(s): Tatsiana Shymanovich and John Z. Kiss (Biology)

Abstract

Plant adaptations to light and gravity are crucial for their survival and fitness. Since gravity and light work simultaneously, spaceflight experiments are needed to separate the effects of the two factors. In microgravity, during spaceflight experiments with Arabidopsis thaliana, novel root and shoot responses have been observed that are not seen on Earth. The goal for this study is to perform a ground-based control experiment that attempts to simulate the effects of microgravity by using a 2D clinostat to compare plant responses. A 2D clinostat is a wheel-like device that rotates to randomize the gravity vector. Similar to spaceflight experiments, seeds of the wild-type genotype and two mutants lacking light-receptors were plated on growth medium and placed onto the clinostat with unidirectional blue or red-light treatments for 44 hours. Preliminary results suggest that roots and shoots of Arabidopsis plants do not have responses to blue and red-light treatments that were observed in space. Thus, the 2D clinostat does not simulate microgravity for the parameters tested. This project will help us to understand the mechanisms of plant responses to light and gravity and can be applied for growing plants during spaceflights, on the Moon, or Mars.


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