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Adaptation in families of children with developmental delay

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Family adaptation to child developmental disability is a dynamic transactional process that has yet to be tested in a longitudinal, rigorous fashion. In addition, although children with developmental delays frequently have behavior problems, not enough research has examined possible underlying

Family adaptation to child developmental disability is a dynamic transactional process that has yet to be tested in a longitudinal, rigorous fashion. In addition, although children with developmental delays frequently have behavior problems, not enough research has examined possible underlying mechanisms in the relation between child developmental delay, adaptation and behavior problems. In the current study, factor analysis examined how best to conceptualize the construct of family adaptation to developmental delay. Also, longitudinal growth curve modeling tested models in which child behavior problems mediated the relation between developmental risk and indices of family adaptation. Participants included 130 typically developing children and their families (Mental Development Index [MDI] > 85) and 104 children with developmental delays and their families (MDI < 85). Data were collected yearly between the ages of three and eight as part of a multi-site, longitudinal investigation examining the interrelations among children's developmental status, family processes, and the emergence of child psychopathology. Results of the current study indicated that adaptation is best conceptualized as a multi-index construct. Different aspects of adaptation changed in unique ways over time, with some facets of adaptation remaining stable while others fluctuated. Child internalizing and externalizing behavior problems were found to decrease over time for both children with developmental delays and typically developing children. Child behavior problems were also found to mediate the relation between developmental risk and family adaptation for over half of the mediation pathways. Significant mediation results indicated that children with developmental delays showed higher early levels of behavior problems, which in turn was associated with more maladaptive adaptation. These findings provide further evidence that families of children with developmental delays experience both positive and more challenging changes in their families over time. This study implies important next steps for research and clinical practice in the area of developmental disability.

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2011

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I think I can: the relation of self-efficacy to cessation and relapse among smokers utiilizing a telephone quitline

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When people pick up the phone to call a telephone quitline, they are taking an important step towards changing their smoking behavior. The current study investigated the role of a critical cognition in the cessation process--self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is thought to

When people pick up the phone to call a telephone quitline, they are taking an important step towards changing their smoking behavior. The current study investigated the role of a critical cognition in the cessation process--self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is thought to be influential in behavior change processes including those involved in the challenging process of stopping tobacco use. By applying basic principles of self-efficacy theory to smokers utilizing a telephone quitline, this study advanced our understanding of the nature of self-efficacy in a "real-world" cessation setting. Participants received between one and four intervention calls aimed at supporting them through their quit attempt. Concurrent with the initiation of this study, three items (confidence, stress, and urges) were added to the standard telephone protocol and assessed at each call. Two principal sets of hypotheses were tested using a combination of ANCOVAs and multiple regression analyses. The first set of hypotheses explored how self-efficacy and changes in self-efficacy within individuals were associated with cessation outcomes. Most research has found a positive linear relation between self-efficacy and quit outcomes, but this study tested the possibility that excessively high self-efficacy may actually reflect an overconfidence bias, and in some cases be negatively related to cessation outcomes. The second set of hypotheses addressed several smoking-related factors expected to affect self-efficacy. As predicted, higher baseline self-efficacy and increases in self-efficacy were associated with higher rates of quitting. However, contrary to predictions, there was no evidence that overconfidence led to diminished cessation success. Finally, as predicted, shorter duration of quit attempts, shorter time to relapse, and stronger urges all were associated with lower self-efficacy. In conclusion, understanding how self-efficacy and changes in self-efficacy affect and are affected by cessation outcomes is useful for informing both future research and current quitline intervention procedures.

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2011

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Mapping the RNA-protein interface in telomerase RNP

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In the 1970s James Watson recognized the inability of conventional DNA replication machinery to replicate the extreme termini of chromosomes known as telomeres. This inability is due to the requirement of a building block primer and was termed the

In the 1970s James Watson recognized the inability of conventional DNA replication machinery to replicate the extreme termini of chromosomes known as telomeres. This inability is due to the requirement of a building block primer and was termed the end replication problem. Telomerase is nature's answer to the end replication problem. Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein which extends telomeres through reverse transcriptase activity by reiteratively copying a short intrinsic RNA sequence to generate 3' telomeric extensions. Telomeres protect chromosomes from erosion of coding genes during replication, as well as differentiate native chromosome ends from double stranded breaks. However, controlled erosion of telomeres functions as a naturally occurring molecular clock limiting the replicative capacity of cells. Telomerase is over activated in many cancers, while inactivation leads to multiple lifespan limiting human diseases. In order to further study the interaction between telomerase RNA (TR) and telomerase reverse transcriptase protein (TERT), vertebrate TERT fragments were screened for solubility and purity following bacterial expression. Soluble fragments of medaka TERT including the RNA binding domain (TRBD) were identified. Recombinant medaka TRBD binds specifically to telomerase RNA CR4/CR5 region. Ribonucleotide and amino acid pairs in close proximity within the medaka telomerase RNA-protein complex were identified using photo-activated cross-linking in conjunction with mass spectrometry. The identified cross-linking amino acids were mapped on known crystal structures of TERTs to reveal the RNA interaction interface of TRBD. The identification of this RNA TERT interaction interface furthers the understanding of the telomerase complex at a molecular level and could be used for the targeted interruption of the telomerase complex as a potential cancer treatment.

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2011

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Children's appraisals as a mediating factor in the relation between interparental conflict and child adjustment

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This study examined the mediating role of children's self-reported appraisals in the relation between interparental conflict intensity and child adjustment. Both parent-reported and child-reported conflict intensity were used as predictor variables. Findings suggested that children's total appraisals mediated the relationshi

This study examined the mediating role of children's self-reported appraisals in the relation between interparental conflict intensity and child adjustment. Both parent-reported and child-reported conflict intensity were used as predictor variables. Findings suggested that children's total appraisals mediated the relationship between child-reported conflict intensity and all four outcome variables (conduct disorder, depression, anxiety, and total adjustment). Additionally, children's appraisals of negative evaluation by others mediated the relationship between child-reported conflict intensity and depression, and both rejection and negative evaluation by others mediated the relationship between child-reported conflict intensity and anxiety. Only one mediational relationship was established when assessing conflict intensity through parent report, with children's appraisals of harm to others mediating the relationship between parent-reported conflict intensity and anxiety. Findings from this study outline the importance of assessing conflict and appraisals from the child's perspective as results indicated a higher level of mediating effects of child appraisals in the relation between conflict and child outcomes when assessing conflict from the child's perspective.

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2014

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Novel strategies for producing proteins with non-proteinogenic amino acids

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The biological and chemical diversity of protein structure and function can be greatly expanded by position-specific incorporation of non-natural amino acids bearing a variety of functional groups. Non-cognate amino acids can be incorporated into proteins at specific sites by using

The biological and chemical diversity of protein structure and function can be greatly expanded by position-specific incorporation of non-natural amino acids bearing a variety of functional groups. Non-cognate amino acids can be incorporated into proteins at specific sites by using orthogonal aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase/tRNA pairs in conjunction with nonsense, rare, or 4-bp codons. There has been considerable progress in developing new types of amino acids, in identifying novel methods of tRNA aminoacylation, and in expanding the genetic code to direct their position. Chemical aminoacylation of tRNAs is accomplished by acylation and ligation of a dinucleotide (pdCpA) to the 3'-terminus of truncated tRNA. This strategy allows the incorporation of a wide range of natural and unnatural amino acids into pre-determined sites, thereby facilitating the study of structure-function relationships in proteins and allowing the investigation of their biological, biochemical and biophysical properties. Described in Chapter 1 is the current methodology for synthesizing aminoacylated suppressor tRNAs. Aminoacylated suppressor tRNACUAs are typically prepared by linking pre-aminoacylated dinucleotides (aminoacyl-pdCpAs) to 74 nucleotide (nt) truncated tRNAs (tRNA-COH) via a T4 RNA ligase mediated reaction. Alternatively, there is another route outlined in Chapter 1 that utilizes a different pre-aminoacylated dinucleotide, AppA. This dinucleotide has been shown to be a suitable substrate for T4 RNA ligase mediated coupling with abbreviated tRNA-COHs for production of 76 nt aminoacyl-tRNACUAs. The synthesized suppressor tRNAs have been shown to participate in protein synthesis in vitro, in an S30 (E. coli) coupled transcription-translation system in which there is a UAG codon in the mRNA at the position corresponding to Val10. Chapter 2 describes the synthesis of two non-proteinogenic amino acids, L-thiothreonine and L-allo-thiothreonine, and their incorporation into predetermined positions of a catalytically competent dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) analogue lacking cysteine. Here, the elaborated proteins were site-specifically derivitized with a fluorophore at the thiothreonine residue. The synthesis and incorporation of phosphorotyrosine derivatives into DHFR is illustrated in Chapter 3. Three different phosphorylated tyrosine derivatives were prepared: bis-nitrobenzylphosphoro-L-tyrosine, nitrobenzylphosphoro-L-tyrosine, and phosphoro-L-tyrosine. Their ability to participate in a protein synthesis system was also evaluated.

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2013

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Studies on the three-dimensional structures of proteins using X-ray crystallography

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X-ray diffraction is the technique of choice to determine the three-dimensional structures of proteins. In this study it has been applied to solve the structure of the survival motor neuron (SMN) proteins, the Fenna-Mathews-Olson (FMO) from Pelodictyon phaeum (Pld. phaeum)

X-ray diffraction is the technique of choice to determine the three-dimensional structures of proteins. In this study it has been applied to solve the structure of the survival motor neuron (SMN) proteins, the Fenna-Mathews-Olson (FMO) from Pelodictyon phaeum (Pld. phaeum) protein, and the synthetic ATP binding protein DX. Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive genetic disease resulting in muscle atrophy and paralysis via degeneration of motor neurons in the spinal cord. In this work, we used X-ray diffraction technique to solve the structures of the three variant of the of SMN protein, namely SMN 1-4, SMN-WT, and SMN-Δ7. The SMN 1-4, SMN-WT, and SMN-Δ7 crystals were diffracted to 2.7 Å, 5.5 Å and 3.0 Å, respectively. The three-dimensional structures of the three SMN proteins have been solved. The FMO protein from Pld. phaeum is a water soluble protein that is embedded in the cytoplasmic membrane and serves as an energy transfer funnel between the chlorosome and the reaction center. The FMO crystal diffracted to 1.99Å resolution and the three-dimensional structure has been solved. In previous studies, double mutant, DX, protein was purified and crystallized in the presence of ATP (Simmons et al., 2010; Smith et al. 2007). DX is a synthetic ATP binding protein which resulting from a random selection of DNA library. In this study, DX protein was purified and crystallized without the presence of ATP to investigate the conformational change in DX structure. The crystals of DX were diffracted to 2.5 Å and the three-dimensional structure of DX has been solved.

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2013

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Directed evolution of gp120 binding mutants of the lectin Cyanovirin-N

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Cyanovirin-N (CV-N) is a naturally occurring lectin originally isolated from the cyanobacteria Nostoc ellipsosporum. This 11 kDa lectin is 101 amino acids long with two binding sites, one at each end of the protein. CV-N specifically binds to terminal Manα1-2Manα

Cyanovirin-N (CV-N) is a naturally occurring lectin originally isolated from the cyanobacteria Nostoc ellipsosporum. This 11 kDa lectin is 101 amino acids long with two binding sites, one at each end of the protein. CV-N specifically binds to terminal Manα1-2Manα motifs on the branched, high mannose Man9 and Man8 glycosylations found on enveloped viruses including Ebola, Influenza, and HIV. wt-CVN has micromolar binding to soluble Manα1-2Manα and also inhibits HIV entry at low nanomolar concentrations. CV-N's high affinity and specificity for Manα1-2Manα makes it an excellent lectin to study for its glycan-specific properties. The long-term aim of this project is to make a variety of mutant CV-Ns to specifically bind other glycan targets. Such a set of lectins may be used as screening reagents to identify biomarkers and other glycan motifs of interest. As proof of concept, a T7 phage display library was constructed using P51G-m4-CVN genes mutated at positions 41, 44, 52, 53, 56, 74, and 76 in binding Domain B. Five CV-N mutants were selected from the library and expressed in BL21(DE3) E. coli. Two of the mutants, SSDGLQQ-P51Gm4-CVN and AAGRLSK-P51Gm4-CVN, were sufficiently stable for characterization and were examined by CD, Tm, ELISA, and glycan array. Both proteins have CD minima at approximately 213 nm, indicating largely β-sheet structure, and have Tm values greater than 40°C. ELISA against gp120 and RNase B demonstrate both proteins' ability to bind high mannose glycans. To more specifically determine the binding specificity of each protein, AAGRLSK-P51Gm4-CVN, SSDGLQQ-P51Gm4-CVN, wt-CVN, and P51G-m4-CVN were sent to the Consortium for Functional Glycomics (CFG) for glycan array analysis. AAGRLSK-P51Gm4-CVN, wt-CVN, and P51G-m4-CVN, have identical specificities for high mannose glycans containing terminal Manα1-2Manα. SSDGLQQ-P51Gm4-CVN binds to terminal GlcNAcα1-4Gal motifs and a subgroup of high mannose glycans bound by P51G-m4-CVN. SSDGLQQ-wt-CVN was produced to restore anti-HIV activity and has a high nanomolar EC50 value compared to wt-CVN's low nanomolar activity. Overall, these experiments show that CV-N Domain B can be mutated and retain specificity identical to wt-CVN or acquire new glycan specificities. This first generation information can be used to produce glycan-specific lectins for a variety of applications.

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2013

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Conveying controversial science: Sam Harris's "The Moral Landscape" and popular science communication

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The academic literature on science communication widely acknowledges a problem: science communication between experts and lay audiences is important, but it is not done well. General audience popular science books, however, carry a reputation for clear science communication and are

The academic literature on science communication widely acknowledges a problem: science communication between experts and lay audiences is important, but it is not done well. General audience popular science books, however, carry a reputation for clear science communication and are understudied in the academic literature. For this doctoral dissertation, I utilize Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape, a general audience science book on the particularly thorny topic of neuroscientific approaches to morality, as a case-study to explore the possibility of using general audience science books as models for science communication more broadly. I conduct a literary analysis of the text that delimits the scope of its project, its intended audience, and the domains of science to be communicated. I also identify seven literary aspects of the text: three positive aspects that facilitate clarity and four negative aspects that interfere with lay public engagement. I conclude that The Moral Landscape relies on an assumed knowledge base and intuitions of its audience that cannot reasonably be expected of lay audiences; therefore, it cannot properly be construed as popular science communication. It nevertheless contains normative lessons for the broader science project, both in literary aspects to be salvaged and literary aspects and concepts to consciously be avoided and combated. I note that The Moral Landscape's failings can also be taken as an indication that typical descriptions of science communication offer under-detailed taxonomies of both audiences for science communication and the varieties of science communication aimed at those audiences. Future directions of study include rethinking appropriate target audiences for science literacy projects and developing a more discriminating taxonomy of both science communication and lay publics.

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2013

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Chronic stress and plasticity in the limbic system: implications for post traumatic stress disorder

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The brain is a fundamental target of the stress response that promotes adaptation and survival but the repeated activation of the stress response has the potential alter cognition, emotion, and motivation, key functions of the limbic system. Three structures of

The brain is a fundamental target of the stress response that promotes adaptation and survival but the repeated activation of the stress response has the potential alter cognition, emotion, and motivation, key functions of the limbic system. Three structures of the limbic system in particular, the hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and amygdala, are of special interest due to documented structural changes and their implication in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of many notable chronic stress-induced changes include dendritic arbor restructuring, which reflect plasticity patterns in parallel with the direction of alterations observed in functional imaging studies in PTSD patients. For instance, chronic stress produces dendritic retraction in the hippocampus and mPFC, but dendritic hypertrophy in the amygdala, consistent with functional imaging in patients with PTSD. Some have hypothesized that these limbic region's modifications contribute to one's susceptibility to develop PTSD following a traumatic event. Consequently, we used a familiar chronic stress procedure in a rat model to create a vulnerable brain that might develop traits consistent with PTSD when presented with a challenge. In adult male rats, chronic stress by wire mesh restraint (6h/d/21d) was followed by a variety of behavioral tasks including radial arm water maze (RAWM), fear conditioning and extinction, and fear memory reconsolidation to determine chronic stress effects on behaviors mediated by these limbic structures. In chapter 2, we corroborated past findings that chronic stress caused hippocampal CA3 dendritic retraction. Importantly, we present new findings that CA3 dendritic retraction corresponded with poor spatial memory in the RAWM and that these outcomes reversed after a recovery period. In chapter 3, we also showed that chronic stress impaired mPFC-mediated extinction memory, findings that others have reported. Using carefully assessed behavior, we present new findings that chronic stress impacted nonassociative fear by enhancing contextual fear during extinction that generalized to a new context. Moreover, the generalization behavior corresponded with enhanced functional activation in the hippocampus and amygdala during fear extinction memory retrieval. In chapter 5, we showed for the first time that chronic stress enhanced amygdala functional activation during fear memory retrieval, i.e., reactivation. Moreover, these enhanced fear memories were resistant to protein synthesis interference to disrupt a previously formed memory, called reconsolidation in a novel attempt to weaken chronic stress enhanced traumatic memory. Collectively, these studies demonstrated the plastic and dynamic effects of chronic stress on limbic neurocircuitry implicated in PTSD. We showed that chronic stress created a structural and functional imbalance across the hippocampus, mPFC, and amygdala, which lead to a PTSD-like phenotype with persistent and exaggerated fear following fear conditioning. These behavioral disruptions in conjunction with morphological and functional imaging data reflect a chronic stress-induced imbalance between hippocampal and mPFC regulation in favor of amygdala function overdrive, and supports a novel approach for traumatic memory processing in PTSD.

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2013

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Modification of electron transfer proteins in the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii chloroplast for alternative fuel development

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There is a critical need for the development of clean and efficient energy sources. Hydrogen is being explored as a viable alternative to fuels in current use, many of which have limited availability and detrimental byproducts. Biological photo-production of H2

There is a critical need for the development of clean and efficient energy sources. Hydrogen is being explored as a viable alternative to fuels in current use, many of which have limited availability and detrimental byproducts. Biological photo-production of H2 could provide a potential energy source directly manufactured from water and sunlight. As a part of the photosynthetic electron transport chain (PETC) of the green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, water is split via Photosystem II (PSII) and the electrons flow through a series of electron transfer cofactors in cytochrome b6f, plastocyanin and Photosystem I (PSI). The terminal electron acceptor of PSI is ferredoxin, from which electrons may be used to reduce NADP+ for metabolic purposes. Concomitant production of a H+ gradient allows production of energy for the cell. Under certain conditions and using the endogenous hydrogenase, excess protons and electrons from ferredoxin may be converted to molecular hydrogen. In this work it is demonstrated both that certain mutations near the quinone electron transfer cofactor in PSI can speed up electron transfer through the PETC, and also that a native [FeFe]-hydrogenase can be expressed in the C. reinhardtii chloroplast. Taken together, these research findings form the foundation for the design of a PSI-hydrogenase fusion for the direct and continuous photo-production of hydrogen in vivo.

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2013