Session C: 1:45PM – 3:15PM

Sciences. Session C – Oral Presentations, Saltair, Union

SESSION C (1:45PM – 3:15PM)
Location: East  Saltair,  A. Ray Olpin University Union



Elevated Blood Glucose Levels Negatively Regulates Nkx6.1 Level in the Pancreatic Beta Cell
Kristopher Wieland, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor Jeffery Tessem, Brigham Young University

SESSION C 1:45-2:00PM
Saltair, Union
Science and Technology

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) cases are growing throughout the world. A key characteristic of T2D is damage to the beta cell. This damage affects the beta cell’s ability to sense glucose and release insulin in response to elevated blood glucose levels. Nkx6.1 is a beta cell transcription factor essential for differentiation, proliferation, and insulin secretion. To test the effect of hyperglycemia on the beta cell, INS-1 832/13 beta cells were cultured under hyperglycemic conditions for various time durations. This treatment showed that after 12 hours, there was a decrease in Nkx6.1 protein. Even with this decrease in protein levels, there is no change in transcription, colocalization or degradation of Nkx6.1. It is likely that decreased translation at 12 hours causes Nkx6.1 protein levels to drop. Nkx6.1 protein levels remain decreased at 24 hours. Nkx6.1 mRNA decreases, with changes to translation, translocation and degradation at 24 hours. These mechanisms were also validated in rat islets. Understanding the effect of hyperglycemia on Nkx6.1 is imperative to the future development of gene therapies used to treat diabetes.



Investigating the relationships between microbes and their role in plant survival.
Josh Leon, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor Michael Rotter, Utah Valley University

SESSION C 2:05-2:20PM
Saltair, Union
Science and Technology

The climate of the American Southwest is rapidly changing relative to other areas in the United States. Temperatures are predicted to increase by roughly 10° F (5.5° C) by the year 2100. Drought events are expected to increase in intensity and length as well. Understanding how plant communities in this region will react to these changes is an important area of research in Capitol Reef National Park (CARE). Research has provided insight into how some native species will react, for example, junipers killing off their branches under drought conditions.  However, few research studies have examined how climate change will affect invasive species. This research examines an invasive plant in CARE under a variety of climate projections. We are also interested in the microbiome of the invasive plant to see if it influences the plant’s response to climate disturbances. The goal of this research is to provide new insights into how invasive plants are successful under disturbed conditions. The species of interest for our research is the African mustard, Strigosella africana.  Of the 126 listed invasive species in CARE, the African mustard is one of 12 species that is actively controlled because of the threat it poses to native communities.  First, we examined whether increased heat, drought conditions and/or fertilizer affected plant survivability.  We found significant differences in plant survivability under differing heat and/or whether a drought was applied.  Next, to find a base ‘natural’ microbiome, we collected full plant samples in CARE using sterile techniques and separated them by shoots/roots, and sequenced their DNA. Plants grown from seeds collected in CARE were examined under the same climate models, excluding fertilizer, as described above. DNA sequenced from plants that survived these trials will then be compared to the natural microbiome to spot any differences in community and/or composition.



Birds-eye View of the Evolutionary History of Repetitive Heavy Chain Fibroin in Lepidoptera Suborder Glossata
Naomi Young, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor Paul Frandsen, Brigham Young University

SESSION C 2:25-2:40PM
Saltair, Union
Science and Technology

The larvae of the order Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) produce silk in various processes including the construction of protective tunnels, pupation cocoons, and escape lines. With over 180,000 species, Lepidoptera is one of the most species diverse orders of insects and it is believed that the diversity of species is mirrored in the gene structure for the major component of silk, heavy chain fibroin (h-fibroin). Despite variation across the order, two features of h-fibroin are conserved: it is extremely long and highly repetitive; a challenge for sequencing technology that has only recently been overcome. Through high-quality, long-read sequencing by large consortia, such as the Darwin Tree of Life project, a plethora of new Lepidoptera genomes have been made available to the public. Of these available genomes, 23 families are represented, spanning more than 14 superfamilies. Here, I selected one species from each family to perform an in-depth analysis of h-fibroin to generate a birds-eye view of the evolutionary history and composition of this important silk gene.



In Darwin’s Footsteps: A Shared Genetic Control for Beak and Toe Size in Domestic Pigeons (Columba livia)
Bailey Young, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor Mike Shapiro, University of Utah

SESSION C 2:45-3:00PM
Saltair, Union
Science and Technology

Domestic rock pigeons (Columba livia) display an incredible amount of variation among different breeds. Even though they can look and act differently, these breeds all belong to the same species. We are therefore able to breed individuals with very different traits and perform genetic mapping. For example, variation at a locus on Chromosome Z, ROR2, is linked to beak size. In The Variation of Plants and Animals Under Domestication, Darwin observed that the data he collected “indicate pretty plainly some kind of correlation between the length of the beak and the size of the feet”. The goal of my research is to determine whether there is a shared genetic control of foot size and beak size in domestic rock pigeons. First, I collected limb length measurements from the F2 generation of a cross between a Homer (medium beaked) and an Old German Owl (small beaked) pigeon. This cross segregates different beak lengths so it presents an ideal opportunity to test for associations between beak and toe lengths. My data confirmed that foot and beak size are indeed associated. Next, I used quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping and found that toe size is controlled by at least two genetic loci, one of which maps to the same genomic region that controls beak length. Therefore, it is likely that toe size and beak length have a shared genetic control or are controlled by closely linked genes. Thus, variation in one genomic region – and possibly one gene – can potentially lead to coordinated changes in seemingly unrelated anatomical structures.


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Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research 2023 - Program Copyright © 2023 by Office of Undergraduate Research is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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