Paper Presentations
SESSION 1: CELLULAR AND DEVELOPMENTAL
FIRST PLACE
Wasson, Cassandra, and Troy Skwor. Theta Omega, Gannon University. Effect of
photobiomodulation (405nm and 670nm) on Chlamydia trachomatis growth and
inflammatory response of cervical epithelial cells.
Chlamydia trachomatis, an obligate intracellular bacterium, is the leading cause of
preventable blindness and bacterial sexually transmitted diseases worldwide. The
majority of reproductive infections are asymptomatic and failure to identify and properly
treat could lead to sequelae, including pelvic inflammatory disease, salpingitis, and
ectopic pregnancies in females and epididymitis and infertility in males. Red light
therapy (670nm) has been associated with tissue healing, inflammation reduction, and
pain reduction. Additionally, violet light (405nm) restricts the growth of various
bacterial pathogens. Because recent studies indicate an increase in recurrence of
chlamydial infections post antibiotic treatment, particularly infections of the eye,
alternative treatments are necessary. Our objective was to assess photobiomodulation as
possible alternative treatments for C. trachomatis infections. Human cervical epithelial
cells, HeLa, were infected with C. trachomatis serovar E and treated with 405 nm
irradiation using light-emitting diodes at various energy densities. Bacterial growth was
assessed by analyzing the ratio of bacterial housekeeping gene (16S) to host
housekeeping gene (GAPDH). Supernatants were also collected and assessed for the proinflammatory protein, IL-6. Our results demonstrated decreased bacterial growth and IL6 production upon 405 nm irradiation. These findings suggest further medicinal
applications of photobiomodulation as possible alternative treatment options for C.
trachomatis infections.
SECOND PLACE
Ilacqua, April, and Dr. Kyle McQuade. Epsilon Omicron, Colorado Mesa University.
Investigation into the Mechanism by which Green Tea Catechins affect Dictyostelium
Development.
Green tea has been suggested to promote health via the catechin epigallocatechin gallate
(EGCG). This compound has received much research interest as a potential therapeutic
and protective agent, but the mechanism by which it acts is not clear. The amoeba
Dictyostelium discoideum is a model organism that is being used to characterize the
activities of potential pharmaceuticals. In the Dictyostelium life cycle unicellular amoeba
aggregate together and develop to form multicellular fruiting bodies, usually within 24
hours. The mechanisms required for these events (cellular motility, chemotaxis,
phagocytosis, signal transduction, and cellular differentiation) have been studied
extensively and require signaling events similar to that seen in vertebrates. This suggests
that the amoeba is a useful system in which to characterize the effects of drugs intended
for human use.
We have shown that the green tea catechin EGCG blocks the
Dictyostelium life cycle. EGCG is not toxic, blocks development, and the interruption in
the life cycle may be blocked due to inhibition of signaling pathways required for cellular
transition to differentiation and development. These data suggest that Dictyostelium is a
useful model to characterize the activities of catechins and other natural products.
THIRD PLACE
Olson, Amalia E. Gamma Omega, Bethel University. The Contractile Effects of Red
Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus) Extract on Mus musculus Uterine Tissue in vitro.
An increasing percent of the population today is using herbal alternatives for their
healthcare needs without knowledge on the efficacy and side effects of many of these
compounds. The purpose of this research was to collect data that either supported or
refuted claims that red raspberry leaf Rubus idaeus induces labor and/or promotes uterine
tone. Red raspberry leaf (RRL) extract (1.5 mg - 50 mg/ 1 mL dH20) was applied to
isolated mice uterine tissues and induced a contractile response. Responses however,
were not dose dependent (g tension, P = 0.33). When the responses were standardized as
a percent of their acetylcholine 10-5 M response, the increases were significant (P =
0.005). Receptor antagonism was used in an effort to determine possible mechanisms of
action. Both cholinergic muscarinic receptor blockers (atropine, scopolamine) and
nicotinic receptor blockers (tubocurarine, hexamethonium) failed to block RRL induced
contractions, indicating that the RRL constituents do not work through
parasympathomimetic pathways. Atosiban, an oxytocin antagonist, also did not inhibit
RRL activity. Results herein do show that at the level of isolated uterine tissues, RRL
extracts do induce contraction. This may lend support for the claims that RRL can be
used as an oxytocic agent.
SESSION 2: ECOLOGY
FIRST PLACE
Coe, Lauren. Xi Omega, Siena Heights University. Oviposition and Larval Performance
of Pieris Rapae with regards to Color Mutants of Brassica Rapa.
Pieris rapae, or better known as the cabbage white butterfly, is an invader species which
causes great damage to Brassica rapa plants and crops. Intraspecific host plant selection
was studied by allowing naïve cabbage white butterflies to land on freely accessible or
enclosed green, variegated and yellow Brassica plants. Female cabbage white butterflies
preferred to land on green and variegated Brassica plants. No significant difference in
first landing choice was found between the freely accessible and enclosed Brassica
plants. It can be deduced that female cabbage white butterflies do not use olfactory cues
but rely on visual cues when selecting one host plant over another.
SECOND PLACE
Frei, Katelynn J. and Robert C. Dowler. Epsilon Sigma, Angelo State University.
Patterns Of Habitat Use And Competition Between Nine-Banded Armadillos (Dasypus
novemcinctus) And Hog-Nosed Skunks (Conepatus leuconotus).
Nasal nematodes of the genus Skrjabingylus are known to infect the frontal sinuses in the
crania of skunk species of North America. A total of 324 skulls of striped skunks
(Mephitis mephitis) either in museum collections or obtained from the rabies lab at the
Texas Department of Health Services were examined for obvious lesions from
Skrjabingylus chitwoodorum. We documented the age of these individuals by looking at
three sets of cranial sutures and assessed the degree of cranial damage caused by this
nematode. Forty-one percent of skulls showed evidence of Skrjabingylus infection. For
those skulls for which data were available on gender, we found no significant difference
in the frequency of infestation between males and females. Older age classes showed
significantly more cranial lesions than younger ones, likely as a result of increased
chance of acquisition of the parasite over the host’s life time. Previous studies have
shown a pattern of Skrjabingylus infections where higher incidence occurs in moist
regions and lower incidence in arid areas. Continuing studies to expand sample size and
areas of Texas will determine if Skrjabingylus incidence varies geographically according
to these climatic factors.
THIRD PLACE
Duell, Meghan, T. Apted, N. Hall, L. Bates-Albers, L. Pendergraft, E. Zuniga, A. Sorucu,
D. Ikizoğlu, S. Semilova, C.I. Abramson, L. Aydin, J.F. Barthell, I. Çakmak, H.H. Oruç,
H. Wells, and J.M. Hranitz. Rho Chi, Bloomsburg University. Honeybee Stress:
Behavioral & Physiological Implications of Flumethrin Treatment.
With honeybee populations in decline, an understanding of the effects ofenvironmental
stressors, especially agrochemicals, is paramount. A hormesis model approach was used
in this study to illustrate possible stimulatory, inhibitory, and lethal effects of flumethrin.
Anatolian honeybees (Apis mellifera anatoliaca) were collected at Uludağ University
Beekeeping and Development Center in Bursa, Turkey. In Experiment 1, bees were given
0.125-4.00 g/bee doses of 50% sucrose Akarvil ® 7.5% flumethrin solution. At 24hrs,
the overall LD50 was 0.527ug/bee with 95% confidence (CI = 0.85, 1.26; Wald χ2 =
45.48, P < 0.0001). Mortality was observed earlier at higher doses (p<0.001, X2= 48.166
for .25ug/bee vs. 0.5-4.ug/bee). In Experiment 2, bees were restrained, given 0.06252.00g/bee, and assessed via behavioral assay. Brain HSP70 content was determined.
Subjects displayed severe physical and behavioral symptoms (loss of directed movement
in legs, antennae, body, and wings, loss of proboscis extension reflex, local or systemic
paralysis, vomiting, and convulsions). The behavioral LC50 for motor function was 0.27
μg/bee (95% confidence, CI = 0.16, 0.41). Profound symptoms and low lethal
concentration indicate that doses were too high to completely illustrate a hormetic
reaction. Flumethrin (as Akarvil ®) was highly toxic to honeybees.
HONORABLE MENTION
Everman, Elizabeth. Lambda, William Jewell College. An investigation of genetic
structure and dispersal patterns of Eleutherodactylus coqui on Hawai’i Island.
The frog Eleutherodactylus coqui was introduced to the Hawai’ian archipelago in the late
1980s, and became established as a wide-spread, high profile invasive species on Hawai’i
Island. Population establishment occurred over a ten-year time period when the majority
of governmental attempts to eradicate the frog were taking place. The continued spread
of the coqui during this time indicates that humans are playing an important role in
facilitating coqui dispersal; however, it is not known whether this facilitation is active
(intentional) or passive (unintentional). Microsatellite markers were used to identify the
dispersal pattern using genotype data collected from 489 coqui frogs collected from 25
populations on Hawai’i Island. A Mantel Test was used to assess the correlation between
genetic and geographic distance. If coqui populations were established under diffusion
dispersal, this correlation is expected to be positive, while lack of or a negative
correlation would indicate that population establishment has occurred through jump
dispersal. Analysis of five microsatellites indicates that genetic distance is not correlated
with geographic distance and suggests that humans are playing an important role as
facilitators of coqui dispersal. A phylogenetic analysis of genetic distance illustrates
several populations that are driving this relationship. Together, these analyses support
the hypothesis that humans are playing an important role in coqui dispersal.
SESSION 3: MICROBIOLOGY
FIRST PLACE
St.Jacques, Brittany, and Ashley Moye. Kappa Epsilon, Old Dominion University.
Developing a Novel Quantitative PCR Diagnostic for the Detection of Mycobacterium
marinum.
Mycobacterium marinum causes severe disease in poikilothermic animals and is a
zoonotic pathogen of humans. M. marinum has a cosmopolitan distribution and is of local
concern in the Chesapeake Bay as a pathogen of striped bass (Morone saxatilis). Despite
the importance of M. marinum as a veterinary and human pathogen, molecular methods
for quantitation of this bacterium have not yet been developed. The goal of this study was
to develop a quantitative PCR diagnostic assay specific to M. marinum. The small
subunit ribosomal RNA (16S rRNA) gene is a commonly used target for PCR assays.
However, 16S rRNA gene sequences are highly conserved in Mycobacterium spp.,
making differentiation problematic. Insertion sequences (bacterial transposable elements)
were used as alternative targets in this work. Specificity, sensitivity, and inhibition by
background DNA testing were conducted for insertion sequences MYMA01 and
MYMA06. High species-specificity, and in some cases strain-specificity, was
demonstrated. The qPCR assays, based on insertion sequences MYMA01 and
MYMA06, represent the first M. marinum specific quantitative PCR diagnostics to date.
The assays will be useful for detecting M. marinum in environmental samples and
diagnosing infections in poikilothermic animals and humans. The assays serve as rapid,
economical alternatives to traditional culture-based methods without the complications
associated with culturing tissue and water samples.
SECOND PLACE
Shelley, Virginia. Mu Iota, Northern Kentucky University. Inhibition of White Nose
Syndrome in Hibernating Bat Colonies: Identification of Anti Fungal Compounds.
Since it first appeared in 2006, White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), caused by the fungus
Geomyces destructans, has been devastating bat populations in the US. Killing more than
2,000,000 bats since it was first discovered, WNS has affected more than 115 cave
hibernacula. To reduce the spread of this pathogen and protect endangered bat species,
we have focused on testing natural organic compounds that are able to prevent the growth
and further transmittance of G. destructans. To do this, various compounds were tested
on their ability to prevent the growth of the model organism Geomyces pannorum using
two different competition assays: 1) a disk diffusion assay; 2) a direct application of the
chemical solution; and 3) shoe assays to develop a decontamination protocol for tourists
at Mammoth Cave National Park. In order to specifically target the Geomyces species,
the same tests were also performed using Penicillium pinophiolium and Aspergillus
brasiliensis. This ensured that if any chemical was successful in the prevention of growth
of G. pannorum, it did not destroy other fungal populations also living within the cave.
A number of compounds have been identified for further testing, both on the pathogen G.
destructans and on healthy bat populations.
SESSION 4: MOLECULAR BIOLOGY
FIRST PLACE
Graham, Melanie, LaKesha Seals, Tanner Wheeler, Maggie Yoder, Carissa Fisher,
Ariana Eakle, and Andrea Holgado. Delta Sigma, Southwestern Oklahoma State
University. Synaptic connections are regulated via VSM-1, a SNARE interacting protein.
Membrane fusion in eukaryotes is mediated by SNARE complex formation. VSM-1, a
SNARE interacting protein regulator, prevents the formation of SNARE complexes and
inhibits fusion. Work reported by Gerst and collaborators have shown that yeast syntaxin
and synaptobrevin bind to VSM-1 in a phosphorylation dependent manner. This process
resulted in the inhibition of exocytosis at the vesicular priming step. To expand our
knowledge on the mediation of intracellular membrane trafficking underlying synapse
formation, we began characterizing the functional role of VSM-1 in the genetic model
organism C. elegans. First, we determined that endogenous VSM-1 is expressed in
nematodes and enriched at synapses. Second, using diverse assays the phenotype of a
vsm-1 mutant isolated by the Oklahoma Genome Consortium was characterized. For
instance, pharmacological assays showed that vsm-1 mutants have an enhanced
sensitivity to “Aldicarb,” a cholinesterase inhibitor. This phenotype can be interpreted as
a consequence of increased neurotransmitter release in the mutant background and/or
greater synaptic connectivity. Third, immunostaining analysis focusing on neuromuscular
junctions showed that mutants lacking a normal VSM-1 protein have a greater density of
synaptic varicosities when compared to wild-type nematodes. Lastly, analysis of
associative learning and memory demonstrate that vsm-1 mutants developed enhanced
short and long-term memory.
In summary, our studies show that C.elegans VSM-1 is enriched at neuromuscular
junctions and seems to regulate synaptic signaling by promoting synapse formation.
SECOND PLACE
Niazi, Mo (Mohammad). Omicron Phi, Southern Nazarene University. The
Experimental Determination of the Effect of Plant Sterols on Cholesterol Esterase.
Plasma cholesterol levels have been lowered by 10% through dietary manipulation
involving plant steryl esters. This reduction results from inhibiting cholesterol
absorption, which is believed to require the cleavage of dietary cholesteryl esters by
cholesterol esterase. The basic steryl structural parameters required by cholesterol
esterase are not well understood. This study utilizes chromophoric steryl furylacrylate
esters which have similar structural properties to plant sterols. The hydrolysis of the
chromophoric esters by cholesterol esterase was followed spectrophotometrically. We
found that removing the double bond located on the B ring of the sterol moiety between
C-5 and C-6 increased the half-life by greater than a factor of 4 at 37°C, pH 7.50, when
compared to cholesteryl furylacrylate. It was also found that placing a double bond in the
hydrophobic tail of the steryl (between C-22 and C-23), decreased the hydrolytic half-life
from 2.0 min to 1.3 min at 37°C, pH 7.50, when compared to cholesteryl furylacrylate.
These studies provide insight into the substrate structural parameters of cholesterol
esterase, which in turn may lead to rational development of therapeutic treatments for
lowering plasma cholesterol levels.
THIRD PLACE
Mason, Mary A., and Michael C. Hanna. Delta Gamma, Texas A&M
University/Commerce. Possible protein interaction between maspardin and ALDH18A1
in Mast syndrome.
Hereditary Spastic Paraplegias (HSPs) are a family of neurological disorders
characterized by weakness and spasticity of the lower limbs and sensory impairment.
Mast syndrome is a complicated, autosomal recessive form of HSP exhibiting symptoms
of dementia, thinning of the corpus callosum, white matter abnormalities, and spastic
paraperesis. Patients with Mast syndrome carry a mutation along their SPG21 gene
producing a premature stop codon. Thus, Mast syndrome is likely due to loss of
functional maspardin protein. Previous studies demonstrate maspardin interacts with
ALDH16A1 and following maspardin deletion aldehyde dehydrogenase ALDH18A1,
another member of the ALDH superfamily, was upregulation 1.66 fold suggesting an
interaction between ALDH18A1 and maspardin may occur. Patients with a missense
mutation, R84Q, exhibit progressive neurodegeneration and bilateral subcapsular
cataracts. In recent studies, variants of ALDH18A1 were found to be significantly
associated with dementia with Alzheimer’s Disease in Down syndrome patients
suggesting a link between ALDH18A1 and other neurodegeneration diseases.
Interestingly, a new HSP has been found to be caused by a mutation within the
ALDH18A1 gene and is being investigated. In vitro and in vivo immunoprecipitation
analyses suggest an interaction occurs, whether this is interaction is direct or indirect will
be determined as well as the interaction domains.
HONORABLE MENTION
Gruder, Olivia K., Crystal D Pickeral, and Brian Spetman. Sigma Tau, Florida State
University. Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors Regulate Nucleosome Distribution During the Innate
Immune Response.
Eukaryotic genomes are organized into chromatin. The structure of chromatin plays a
critical role in the regulation of the human genome. An understanding of the role of
chromatin structure and its relationship to gene regulation is critical to developing new
strategies to prevent and treat diseases. Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDI) alter
chromatin structure by preventing the removal of acetyl groups from chromatin. HDI
have been prescribed for the past 40 years as anticancer, antipsychotic and antiinflammatory drugs. However, the mechanism by which they function has not been fully
uncovered. We chose to investigate the anti-inflammatory action of this class of drug in
the context of an innate immune response. We treated a human macrophage cell line with
two different HDI. We then followed HDI treatment with an immune insult that
mimicked bacterial, viral or fungal infection. We hypothesized that HDI would affect the
genomic response to inflammatory stimuli by regulating chromatin structure. We
measured chromatin structure at approximately 500 of genes involved in the innate
immune response using an innovative microarray technology. We found that the antiinflammatory effect of HDI may lie in their ability to prevent the necessary chromatin
structural changes associated with the immune response. Furthermore, we are able to
classify subsets of genes by their response to the HDI. These subsets include chromatin
structural changes unique to the insult, as well as chromatin structural changes unique to
treatment with HDI. These experiments mark an important step in understanding HDI
mechanism and role of chromatin structure in genome response.
This work was supported by an Honors Scholarship Travel Award from FSU.
SESSION 5: ORGANISMAL
FIRST PLACE
Nguyen, Austin, Ellie Altomarem, and Catharine McElwain. Epsilon Delta, Loyola
Marymount University. Cadmium Accumulation and Resistance in Drosophila melanogaster.
The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, demonstrates sensitivity to heavy metal exposure
that is both variable and selectable. Our lab has demonstrated significant differences in
survival of wild-type D. melanogaster raised on varied concentrations of Cadmiumenriched food and has measured cadmium levels in treated flies using mass spectrometry.
Preliminary data from flies across eight generations of exposure indicate that descendants
of flies that survived exposure to high levels of cadmium are more likely to survive high
exposures, meaning that resistance is selectable. Furthermore, cadmium levels, quantified
by mass spectrometry, may decline in exposed flies selected for resistance compared to
sensitive flies exposed to the same concentrations of cadmium. This decrease in cadmium
content may indicate a metabolic mechanism of resistance, rather than the literaturesuggested sequestration mechanism. The ability of flies to develop resistance to heavy
metals may have significant impact on food webs in contaminated environments and may
also indicate levels of exposure to higher trophic levels. The local Ballona wetlands are
contaminated with heavy metals, particularly cadmium, lead, and copper, of which the
levels in flies we have begun to investigate. Interestingly, we may have also observed an
influence on copper levels in flies selected for cadmium resistance, which will be an area
of further investigation.
SECOND PLACE
Blank, Noelle A., and Greg Andraso. Theta Omega, Gannon University. Comparison of
diet and pharyngeal apparatus of round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus) from two populations
in Erie County, Pennsylvania.
Round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus) shift their diet from arthropods to dreissenid
mussels as they grow, and this diet shift is correlated with developmental changes in
pharyngeal structures. Changes in the pharyngeal apparatus may cause gobies to switch
from arthropod to dreissenid prey. Alternatively, the dietary switch may drive
pharyngeal remodeling. To test the possibility of phenotypic plasticity (i.e. that diet
influences pharyngeal morphology), we compared prey availability, food habits, and
pharyngeal morphology of round gobies from two populations: Presque Isle shipping
channel (“dreissenid-rich” location) and Fairview gravel pit (“dreissenid-absent”
location). If the pharyngeals are phenotypically plastic, we would expect to see less
robust structures and the maintenance of narrow (< 0.3 mm) teeth in round gobies from
the gravel pit, compared to those from the shipping channel. We have found that
dreissenids are abundant in the shipping channel and compose nearly the entire diet of
round gobies collected there. In contrast, dreissenids appear to be absent in the gravel pit.
Round gobies collected from that site contain a variety of arthropods, but also contain
small gastropod mollusks. Analyses of the pharyngeals of fish from the two sites suggest
differences in morphology that are consistent with phenotypic plasticity.
THIRD PLACE
Clippinger, Amy K. Mu Iota, Northern Kentucky University. Which neurodegenerative
disease is it? Characterizing Atp13a2 deficient mice.
An animal model for Kufor-Rakeb syndrome, an atypical form of Parkinson's disease
(PD), and neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCL), a lysosomal storage disorder, has been
generated by knocking out the Atp13a2 gene in mice. Atp13a2 encodes a lysosomal Ptype transport ATPase that is thought to be necessary for normal lysosomal function,
including protein degradation and autophagy. Pathway specific arrays were used to assess
the expression of autophagy-related genes in mouse embryonic fibroblasts and brain
regions isolated from Atp13a2 knockout mice to determine if autophagic processes were
perturbed. We also postulated that Atp13a2 deficient mice would be more prone to
neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, in which protein aggregates have been
shown to contribute to neuronal dysfunction and cognitive impairment. To test this
hypothesis we introduced a gene into Atp13a2 deficient mice that is associated with
familial Alzheimer's disease, the human mutant amyloid precursor protein gene (APP).
Mice were tested in the Morris water maze spatial memory task at 6, 9 and 12 months.
Brains were analyzed for the presence of protein aggregation, and evidence of the
accumulation of aging pigment, or lipofuscin, in knockout brains. Our results suggest that
Atp13a2 deficient mice might serve as a model for neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses.
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Winners of Paper Presentations for 2012