Matching Items (5)

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Phage Therapy: Saguaro Cactus Soft Rot Treatment

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Phage therapy has been around for more than a century, but has regained interest in the field of medicine and holds significant potential to act as a treatment against a

Phage therapy has been around for more than a century, but has regained interest in the field of medicine and holds significant potential to act as a treatment against a deadly bacterial infection in various cactus species. It was discovered that bacteriophages isolated from soil samples of potato plants were able to suppress Pectobacterium carotovorum, ‘Pectobacterium’ being within the family Pectobacteriaceae which contains the ‘Erwinia’ genus that causes soft rot diseases in various plants (Jones, 2012). The two scientists had co-inoculated “... the phage with the phytobacterium” (Jones, 2012) in order to suppress the growth and prevent the infection from occurring.

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  • 2020-05

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Conservation of m6A in evolving long-term E. coli populations

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Many factors are at play within the genome of an organism, contributing to much of the diversity and variation across the tree of life. While the genome is generally encoded

Many factors are at play within the genome of an organism, contributing to much of the diversity and variation across the tree of life. While the genome is generally encoded by four nucleotides, A, C, T, and G, this code can be expanded. One particular mechanism that we examine in this thesis is modification of bases—more specifically, methylation of Adenine (m6A) within the GATC motif of Escherichia coli. These methylated adenines are especially important in a process called methyl-directed mismatch repair (MMR), a pathway responsible for repairing errors in the DNA sequence produced by replication. In this pathway, methylated adenines identify the parent strand and direct the repair proteins to correct the erroneous base in the daughter strand. While the primary role of methylated adenines at GATC sites is to direct the MMR pathway, this methylation has also been found to affect other processes, such as gene expression, the activity of transposable elements, and the timing of DNA replication. However, in the absence of MMR, the ability of these other processes to maintain adenine methylation and its targets is unknown.
To determine if the disruption of the MMR pathway results in the reduced conservation of methylated adenines as well as an increased tolerance for mutations that result in the loss or gain of new GATC sites, we surveyed individual clones isolated from experimentally evolving wild-type and MMR-deficient (mutL- ;conferring an 150x increase in mutation rate) populations of E. coli with whole-genome sequencing. Initial analysis revealed a lack of mutations affecting methylation sites (GATC tetranucleotides) in wild-type clones. However, the inherent low mutation rates conferred by the wild-type background render this result inconclusive, due to a lack of statistical power, and reveal a need for a more direct measure of changes in methylation status. Thus as a first step to comparative methylomics, we benchmarked four different methylation-calling pipelines on three biological replicates of the wildtype progenitor strain for our evolved populations.
While it is understood that these methylated sites play a role in the MMR pathway, it is not fully understood the full extent of their effect on the genome. Thus the goal of this thesis was to better understand the forces which maintain the genome, specifically concerning m6A within the GATC motif.

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  • 2020-05

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The Effects of Natural Selection, Drift, and Genetic Background on Phenotypic Variation and Correlation in E. coli

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Phenotypic evolution is an essential topic within the general field of evolution. Theoretically, the outcome of phenotypic evolution may be influenced by factors such as genetic background and the interaction

Phenotypic evolution is an essential topic within the general field of evolution. Theoretically, the outcome of phenotypic evolution may be influenced by factors such as genetic background and the interaction of natural selection and genetic drift. To gain empirical evidence for testing the effects of those factors, we used eight long-term evolved Escherichia coli populations as a model system. These populations differ in terms of genetic background (different mutation rates) as well as bottleneck size (small- and large-magnitude). Specifically, we used a plate reader to measure three growth-related traits: maximum growth rate (umax), carrying capacity (Kc), and lag time (Lt) for 40 clones within each population. For each trait we quantified the change in mean per generation, the change in variance per generation, and the correlation coefficient between pairs of traits. Interestingly, we found that the small and large bottleneck populations of one background displayed clear, distinguishing trends that were not present within the populations of the other background. This leads to the conclusion that the influence of selection and drift on a population’s phenotypic outcomes is itself influenced by the genetic background of that population. Additionally, we found a strong positive correlation between umax and Kc within each of the high-mutation populations that was not consistent with our neutral expectation. However, the other two pairs did not exhibit a similar pattern. Our results provide a novel understanding in the relationship between the evolution of E. coli growth-related phenotypes and the population-genetic environment.

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  • 2020-05

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Quantifying the Evolution of Fluconazole Resistance in S. Cerevisiae Using Molecular Barcodes

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One of the largest problems facing modern medicine is drug resistance. Many classes of drugs can be rendered ineffective if their target is able to acquire beneficial mutations. While this

One of the largest problems facing modern medicine is drug resistance. Many classes of drugs can be rendered ineffective if their target is able to acquire beneficial mutations. While this is an excellent showcase of the power of evolution, it necessitates the development of increasingly stronger drugs to combat resistant pathogens. Not only is this strategy costly and time consuming, it is also unsustainable. To contend with this problem, many multi-drug treatment strategies are being explored. Previous studies have shown that resistance to some drug combinations is not possible, for example, resistance to a common antifungal drug, fluconazole, seems impossible in the presence of radicicol. We believe that in order to understand the viability of multi-drug strategies in combating drug resistance, we must understand the full spectrum of resistance mutations that an organism can develop, not just the most common ones. It is possible that rare mutations exist that are resistant to both drugs. Knowing the frequency of such mutations is important for making predictions about how problematic they will be when multi-drug strategies are used to treat human disease. This experiment aims to expand on previous research on the evolution of drug resistance in S. cerevisiae by using molecular barcodes to track ~100,000 evolving lineages simultaneously. The barcoded cells were evolved with serial transfers for seven weeks (200 generations) in three concentrations of the antifungal Fluconazole, three concentrations of the Hsp90 inhibitor Radicicol, and in four combinations of Fluconazole and Radicicol. Sequencing data was used to track barcode frequencies over the course of the evolution, allowing us to observe resistant lineages as they rise and quantify differences in resistance evolution across the different conditions. We were able to successfully observe over 100,000 replicates simultaneously, revealing many adaptive lineages in all conditions. Our results also show clear differences across drug concentrations and combinations, with the highest drug concentrations exhibiting distinct behaviors.

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  • 2021-05

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Discovery of Novel Viruses in Arachnids

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Arachnids belong to the phylum Arthropoda, the largest phylum in the animal kingdom. Ticks are blood-feeding arachnids that vector numerous pathogens of significant medical and veterinary importance, while scorpions have

Arachnids belong to the phylum Arthropoda, the largest phylum in the animal kingdom. Ticks are blood-feeding arachnids that vector numerous pathogens of significant medical and veterinary importance, while scorpions have become a common concern in urban desert cities due to the high level of toxicity in their venom. To date, viruses associated with arachnids have been under sampled and understudied. Here viral metagenomics was used to explore the diversity of viruses present in ticks and scorpions. American dog ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) and blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) were collected in Pennsylvania while one hairy scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis) and four bark scorpions (Centruroides sculpturatus) were collected in Phoenix. Novel viral genomes described here belong to the families Polyomaviridae, Anelloviridae, Genomoviridae, and a newly proposed family, Arthropolviridae.

Polyomaviruses are non-enveloped viruses with a small, circular double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) genomes that have been identified in a variety of mammals, birds and fish and are known to cause various diseases. Arthropolviridae is a proposed family of circular, large tumor antigen encoding dsDNA viruses that have a unidirectional genome organization. Genomoviruses and anelloviruses are ssDNA viruses that have circular genomes ranging in size from 2–2.4 kb and 2.1–3.8 kb, respectively. Genomoviruses are ubiquitous in the environment, having been identified in a wide range of animal, plant and environmental samples, while anelloviruses have been associated with a plethora of animals.

Here, 16 novel viruses are reported that span four viral families. Eight novel polyomaviruses were recovered from bark scorpions, three arthropolviruses were recovered from dog ticks and one arthropolvirus from a hairy scorpion. Viruses belonging to the families Polyomaviridae and Arthropolviridae are highly divergent. This is the first more extensive study of these viruses in arachnids. Three genomoviruses were recovered from both dog and deer ticks and one anellovirus was recovered from deer ticks, which are the first records of these viruses being recovered from ticks. This work highlights the diversity of dsDNA and ssDNA viruses in the arachnid population and emphasizes the importance of performing viral surveys on these populations.

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  • 2019