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Investigating the Role of the Las and Rhl Quorum Sensing Systems in the Pathogenesis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

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Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic bacterial pathogen commonly associated with increased morbidity and mortality in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. To adapt to the CF lung environment, P. aeruginosa undergoes multiple genetic changes as it moves from an acute to a

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic bacterial pathogen commonly associated with increased morbidity and mortality in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. To adapt to the CF lung environment, P. aeruginosa undergoes multiple genetic changes as it moves from an acute to a chronic infection. The resultant phenotypes have been associated with chronic infection and can provide important information to track the patient’s individualized disease progression. This study examines the link between the accumulation of QS genetic mutations and phenotypic expression in P. aeruginosa laboratory strains and clinical isolates. We utilized several plate-based and colorimetric assays to quantify the production of pyocyanin, rhamnolipids, and protease from paired clinical early- and late-stage chronic infection isolates across 16 patients. Exoproduct production of each isolate was compared to the mean production of pooled isolates to classify high producing (QS-sufficient) and low producing (QS-deficient) isolates. We found that over time P. aeruginosa isolates exhibit a reduction in QS-related phenotypes during chronic infections. Future research of the QS regulatory networks will identify whether reversion of genotype will result in corresponding phenotypic changes in QS-deficient chronic infection isolates.

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2020-05

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The Effectiveness of Inhibition and Biofilm Disruption on Antibiotic Resistant E. coli

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The purpose of this study was to observe the effectiveness of the phenylalanyl arginine β-naphthylamide dihydrochloride inhibitor and Tween 20 when combined with an antibiotic against Escherichia. coli. As antibiotic resistance becomes more and more prevalent it is necessary to

The purpose of this study was to observe the effectiveness of the phenylalanyl arginine β-naphthylamide dihydrochloride inhibitor and Tween 20 when combined with an antibiotic against Escherichia. coli. As antibiotic resistance becomes more and more prevalent it is necessary to think outside the box and do more than just increase the dosage of currently prescribed antibiotics. This study attempted to combat two forms of antibiotic resistance. The first is the AcrAB efflux pump which is able to pump antibiotics out of the cell. The second is the biofilms that E. coli can form. By using an inhibitor, the pump should be unable to rid itself of an antibiotic. On the other hand, using Tween allows for biofilm formation to either be disrupted or for the biofilm to be dissolved. By combining these two chemicals with an antibiotic that the efflux pump is known to expel, low concentrations of each chemical should result in an equivalent or greater effect on bacteria compared to any one chemical in higher concentrations. To test this hypothesis a 96 well plate BEC screen test was performed. A range of antibiotics were used at various concentrations and with varying concentrations of both Tween and the inhibitor to find a starting point. Following this, Erythromycin and Ciprofloxacin were picked as the best candidates and the optimum range of the antibiotic, Tween, and inhibitor were established. Finally, all three chemicals were combined to observe the effects they had together as opposed to individually or paired together. From the results of this experiment several conclusions were made. First, the inhibitor did in fact increase the effectiveness of the antibiotic as less antibiotic was needed if the inhibitor was present. Second, Tween showed an ability to prevent recovery in the MBEC reading, showing that it has the ability to disrupt or dissolve biofilms. However, Tween also showed a noticeable decrease in effectiveness in the overall treatment. This negative interaction was unable to be compensated for when using the inhibitor and so the hypothesis was proven false as combining the three chemicals led to a less effective treatment method.

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2018-05

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Defining the Limitations of Illumina Amplicon Sequencing as it Relates to Community Diversity Analysis

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The termite Coptotermes gestroi is a small subterranean termite originating from Southeast Asia. The hindgut of C. gestroi contains five distinct species of parabasalid: Pseudotrichonympha leei, two undescribed species from the genus Holomastigotoides, and two undescribed species from the genus

The termite Coptotermes gestroi is a small subterranean termite originating from Southeast Asia. The hindgut of C. gestroi contains five distinct species of parabasalid: Pseudotrichonympha leei, two undescribed species from the genus Holomastigotoides, and two undescribed species from the genus Cononympha. This study investigates the protist symbionts in C. gestroi and the relationship between their relative abundance as inferred by Illumina sequence reads and the directly observed abundances for each protist genus. Illumina amplicon sequencing as a means of DNA analysis is a proven method for identification and diversity analysis, although the specific ratios of sequence reads to cell abundance in protists is not well known. In this study, protist communities were observed under light microscopy; cells were counted under hemocytometer and characterized at the molecular level using Illumina amplicon sequencing. When comparing sequence read abundances to cell abundances, some general trends were found in both analysis methods. Cononmypha repeatedly formed the majority of the community, while Holomastigotoides and Pseudotrichonympha were responsible for a smaller yet similar portion of the population. Cell counts and sequence reads were also compared using an assumed linear model, with R2 values generated to quantify the relationship between both. The results suggest that Illumina sequencing can be used to obtain rough estimates of community diversity, but the high variability within the data suggest that the read abundances should be treated with caution.

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2018-05

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Assessment of the Vertical Stratification of Microbial Community Structure in Permafrost Peatlands

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Peatlands are a type of wetlands where the rate of accumulation of organic matter exceed the rate of decomposition and have accumulated more than 30 cm of peat (Joosten and Clark, 2002). Peatlands store approximately 30% of all terrestrial carbon

Peatlands are a type of wetlands where the rate of accumulation of organic matter exceed the rate of decomposition and have accumulated more than 30 cm of peat (Joosten and Clark, 2002). Peatlands store approximately 30% of all terrestrial carbon as recalcitrant peat, partially decomposed plant and microbial biomass, while simultaneously producing almost 40% of the globally emitted methane (Schmidt et al., 2016), making peatlands an important component of the carbon budgets. Published research indicates that the efficiency of carbon usage among microbial communities can determine the soil-carbon response to rising temperatures (Allison et al. 2010). By determining carbon consumption in peatland soils, total community respiration response, and community structure change with additions, models of carbon use efficiency in permafrost peatlands will be well-informed and have a better understanding of how the peatlands will respond to, and utilize, increased availability of carbon compounds due to the melting permafrost. To do this, we will sequence Lutose deep core samples to observe baseline microbial community structure at different depths and different age-gradients, construct substrate incubations of glucose and propionate and observe community respiration response via a gas chromatography flame ionization detector, track the glucose and propionate additions with high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and sequence the samples once more to determine if there was a deviation from the initial community structure obtained prior to the incubations. We found that our initial sequencing data was supported by previous work (Lin et al., 2014), however we were unable to sequence samples post-incubation due to time constraints. In this sequencing analysis we found that the strongest variable that made samples biologically similar was the age-gradient site in which they were extracted. We found that the group with glucose additions produced the most carbon dioxide compared with the other treatments, but was not the treatment that dominated the production of methane. Finally, in the HPLC samples that were analyzed, we found that glucose is likely forming the most by-product accumulation from mass balance calculations, while propionate is likely forming the least. Future experimentation should focus on the shortcomings of this experiment. Further analysis of 16S rRNA sequencing data from after the incubations should be analyzed to determine the change in microbial community structure throughout the experiment. Furthermore, HPLC analysis for the several samples need to be done and followed up with mass balance to determine where the added glucose and propionate are being allocated within the soil. Once these pieces of the puzzle are put into place, our original question of how the microbial community structure changes at different depths and age-gradients within permafrost peatlands will be conclusively answered.

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2018-05

Optimizing Recombinant Protein Production for Domain Antibodies: Proof-of-Concept

Description

Recent studies in traumatic brain injury (TBI) have found a temporal window where therapeutics on the nanometer scale can cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the parenchyma. Developing protein-based therapeutics is attractive for a number of reasons, yet, the production

Recent studies in traumatic brain injury (TBI) have found a temporal window where therapeutics on the nanometer scale can cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the parenchyma. Developing protein-based therapeutics is attractive for a number of reasons, yet, the production pipeline for high yield and consistent bioactive recombinant proteins remains a major obstacle. Previous studies for recombinant protein production has utilized gram-negative hosts such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) due to its well-established genetics and fast growth for recombinant protein production. However, using gram-negative hosts require lysis that calls for additional optimization and also introduces endotoxins and proteases that contribute to protein degradation. This project directly addressed this issue and evaluated the potential to use a gram-positive host such as Brevibacillus choshinensis (Brevi) which does not require lysis as the proteins are expressed directly into the supernatant. This host was utilized to produce variants of Stock 11 (S11) protein as a proof-of-concept towards this methodology. Variants of S11 were synthesized using different restriction enzymes which will alter the location of protein tags that may affect production or purification. Factors such as incubation time, incubation temperature, and media were optimized for each variant of S11 using a robust design of experiments. All variants of S11 were grown using optimized parameters prior to purification via affinity chromatography. Results showed the efficiency of using Brevi as a potential host for domain antibody production in the Stabenfeldt lab. Future aims will focus on troubleshooting the purification process to optimize the protein production pipeline.

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2019-05

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Codon Optimization of Human TRAIL Gene for Maximal Expression in a Self-Destructing Salmonella Strain for Efficient Colorectal Cancer Treatment

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Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer that affects both men and women and the second leading cause of death in cancer related deaths[1, 2]. The most common form of treatment is chemotherapy followed by radiation, which

Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer that affects both men and women and the second leading cause of death in cancer related deaths[1, 2]. The most common form of treatment is chemotherapy followed by radiation, which is insufficient to cure stage four cancers[3]. Salmonella enteric has long been shown to have inherent tumor targeting properties and have been able to penetrate and exist in all aspects of the tumor environment, something that chemotherapy is unable to achieve. This lab has developed a genetically modified Salmonella typhimurium (GMS) which is able to deliver DNA vaccines or synthesized proteins directly to tumor sites. These GMS strains have been used to deliver human TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) protein directly to tumor sites, but expression level was limited. It is the hope of the experiment that codon optimization of TRAIL to S. typhimurium preferred codons will lead to increased TRAIL expression in the GMS. For preliminary studies, BALB/c mice were subcutaneously challenged with CT-26 murine colorectal cancer cells and treated with an intra-tumor injection with either PBS, strain GMS + PCMV FasL (P2), or strain GMS + Pmus FasL). APC/CDX2 mutant mice were also induced to develop human colon polyps and treated with either PBS, strain GMS + vector (P1), P2, or P3. The BALB/c mouse showed statistically significant levels of decreased tumor size in groups treated with P2 or P3. The APC/CDX2 mouse study showed statistically significant levels of decreased colon polyp numbers in groups treated with P3, as expected, but was not significantly significant for groups treated with P1 and P2. In addition, TRAIL was codon optimized for robust synthesis in Salmonella. The construct will be characterized and evaluated in vitro and in vivo. Hopefully, the therapeutic effect of codon optimized TRAIL will be maximal while almost completely minimizing any unintended side effects.

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2019-05

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Enhancing Escherichia coli Fermentative Performance with Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 Genes

Description

Renewable bioproduction through fermentation of microbial species such as E. coli shows much promise in comparison to conventional fossil fuel based chemical production. Although Escherichia coli is a workhorse for bioproduction, there are inherent limitations associated with the use of

Renewable bioproduction through fermentation of microbial species such as E. coli shows much promise in comparison to conventional fossil fuel based chemical production. Although Escherichia coli is a workhorse for bioproduction, there are inherent limitations associated with the use of this organism which negatively affect bioproduction. One example is E. coli fermentative growth being less robust compared to some microbes such as Lactobacilli under anaerobic and microaerobic fermentation conditions. Identification and characterization of its fermentative growth constraints will help in making E. coli a better fermentation host. In this thesis, I demonstrate that Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 has desirable fermentative capabilities that may be transferrable to E. coli through genetic engineering to alleviate growth restraints. This has led to the hypothesis that these L. plantarum DNA sequences are transferrable through a genomic library. A background of comparative genomics and complementary literature review has demonstrated that E. coli growth may be hindered by stress from many toxin-antitoxin systems. L. plantarum WCFS1 optimizes amino acid catabolism over glycolysis to generate high ATP levels from reducing agents and proton motive force, and Lactobacilli are resistant to acidic environments and encodes a wide variety of acid transporters that could help E. coli fermentative growth. Since a great variety of L. plantarum genes may contribute to its fermentative capabilities, a gDNA library containing L. plantarum WCFS1 genes has been successfully constructed for testing in E. coli bioproducers to search for specific genes that may enhance E. coli fermentative performance and elucidate the molecular basis of Lactobacillus fermentative success.

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2019-05

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Quantifying Intragenomic Variability in the 18S Gene of Trichonympha from Zootermopsis

Description

The 18S ribosomal RNA gene is ubiquitous across eukaryotes as it encodes the RNA component of the ribosomal small subunit. It is the most commonly used marker in molecular studies of unicellular eukaryotes (protists) due to its species specificity and

The 18S ribosomal RNA gene is ubiquitous across eukaryotes as it encodes the RNA component of the ribosomal small subunit. It is the most commonly used marker in molecular studies of unicellular eukaryotes (protists) due to its species specificity and high copy number in the protist genome. Recent studies have revealed the widespread occurrence of intragenomic (intra-individual) polymorphism in many protists, an understudied phenomenon which contradicts the assumed homogeneity of the 18S throughout an individual genome. This thesis quantifies and analyzes the level of intragenomic and intraspecific 18S sequence variability in three Trichonympha species (T. campanula, T. collaris, T. postcylindrica) from Zootermopsis termites. Single-cell DNA extractions, PCR, cloning, and sequencing were performed to obtain 18S rRNA sequence reads, which were then analyzed to determine levels of sequence divergence among individuals and among species. Intragenomic variability was encountered in all three species. However, excluding singleton mutations, sequence divergence was less than 1% in 53 of the 56 compared individuals. T. collaris exhibited the most substantial intragenomic variability, with sequence divergence ranging from 0 to 3.4%. Further studies with more clones per cell are needed to elucidate the true extent of intragenomic variability in Trichonympha.

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2020-05

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Inhibition of PKR phosphorylation by Vaccinia Virus' E3 Protein

Description

Vaccinia virus is a cytoplasmic, double-stranded DNA orthopoxvirus. Unlike mammalian cells, vaccinia virus produces double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) during its viral life cycle. The protein kinase R, PKR, is one of the principal host defense mechanisms against orthopoxvirus infection. PKR can

Vaccinia virus is a cytoplasmic, double-stranded DNA orthopoxvirus. Unlike mammalian cells, vaccinia virus produces double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) during its viral life cycle. The protein kinase R, PKR, is one of the principal host defense mechanisms against orthopoxvirus infection. PKR can bind double-stranded RNA and phosphorylate eukaryotic translation initiation factor, eIF2α, shutting down protein synthesis and halting the viral life cycle. To combat host defenses, vaccinia virus encodes E3, a potent inhibitor of the cellular anti-viral eIF2α kinase, PKR. The E3 protein contains a C-terminal dsRNA-binding motif that sequesters dsRNA and inhibits PKR activation. We demonstrate that E3 also interacts with PKR by co-immunoprecipitation. This interaction is independent of the presence of dsRNA and dsRNA-binding by E3, indicating that the interaction is not due to dsRNA-bridging.
PKR interaction mapped to a region within the dsRNA-binding domain of E3 and overlapped with sequences in the C-terminus of this domain that are necessary for binding to dsRNA. Point mutants of E3 were generated and screened for PKR inhibition and direct interaction. Analysis of these mutants demonstrates that dsRNA-binding but not PKR interaction plays a critical role in the broad host range of VACV. Nonetheless, full inhibition of PKR in cells in culture requires both dsRNA-binding and PKR interaction. Because E3 is highly conserved among orthopoxviruses, understanding the mechanisms that E3 uses to inhibit PKR can give insight into host range pathogenesis of dsRNA producing viruses.

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2017-05

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Coronavirus Envelope Protein Transmembrane Domain: Impact of Positive Charges on Virus-like Particle Assembly

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Coronaviruses are a significant group of viruses that cause enteric and respiratory infections in a variety of animals, including humans. Outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the past 15 years has increased

Coronaviruses are a significant group of viruses that cause enteric and respiratory infections in a variety of animals, including humans. Outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the past 15 years has increased research into coronaviruses to gain an understanding of their structure and function so one day therapies and vaccines may be produced. These viruses have four main structural proteins: the spike, nucleocapsid, envelope, and membrane proteins. The envelope (E) protein is an integral membrane protein in the viral envelope that acts as a viroporin for transport of cations and plays an important role in pathogenesis and viral assembly. E contains a hydrophobic transmembrane domain with polar residues that is conserved across coronavirus species and may be significant to its function. This experiment looks at the possible role of one polar residue in assembly, the 15th residue glutamine, in the Mouse Hepatitis Virus (MHV) E protein. The glutamine 15 residue was mutated into positively charged residues lysine or arginine. Plasmids with these mutations were co-expressed with the membrane protein (M) gene to produce virus-like particles (VLPs). VLPs are produced when E and M are co-expressed together and model assembly of the coronavirus envelope, but they are not infectious as they do not contain the viral genome. Observing their production with the mutated E protein gives insight into the role the glutamine residue plays in assembly. The experiment showed that a changing glutamine 15 to positive charges does not appear to significantly affect the assembly of the VLPs, indicating that this specific residue may not have a large impact on viral assembly.

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2017-05