Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Effect of Nitrosative Stress on Heme Protein Expression and Localization in Giardia Intestinalis
The parasitic protist Giardia intestinalis has five heme proteins: a flavohemoglobin and several isotypes of cytochrome b5. While the flavohemoglobin has a role in counteracting nitric oxide, the functions of the cytochromes (gCYTb5s) are unknown. In this study, the protein level and cellular localization of three gCYTB5 isotypes (gCYTb5-I, II and III) and flavohemoglobin were examined in Giardia trophozoites exposed to three nitrosative stressors at two different concentrations: nitrite (20 mM, 0.5 mM); GSNO (2 mM, 0.25 mM) and DETA-NONOate (2 mM, 0.05 mM). An increase in protein levels was observed for gCYTb5-II with all stressors at both concentrations. However, the effects of these nitrosative stressors on gCYTb5-I and III were inconclusive due to the variation among the replicates and the poor detection of gCYTb5- III on western blots. The protein level of the flavohemoglobin also increased in response to the three stressors at the low concentrations of stressors that were tested. Only the cellular localization of gCYTb5-I changed in response to nitrosative stress, where it moved from the nucleolus to the nucleus and cytoplasm. This response was extremely sensitive and occurred at the lower doses of the three stressors, suggesting that gCYTb5-I may be involved in a nucleolar- based stress response. Author Keywords:
Functional Investigation of A Ustilago maydis Xylose Metabolism Gene and its Antisense Transcripts
Ustilago maydis is a biotrophic fungal plant pathogen that causes ‘common smut of corn’ disease. During infection, U. maydis develops a metabolic dependency on its host, relying on uptake of the carbon molecules provided within Zea mays tissues. The research presented indicated a requirement for metabolism of the pentose sugar D-xylose through functional investigation of a U. maydis xylitol dehydrogenase (uxm1), an enzyme involved in the bioconversion of D-xylose. This work is the first to outline the importance of pentose metabolism during biotrophic plant pathogenesis, as U. maydis haploid cells lacking this gene were impaired in their ability to cause disease and grow on medium containing only D-xylose. This thesis also explored the possibility that expression of this carbon-related gene is controlled by antisense RNAs (asRNAs), endogenous molecules with complementarity to mRNAs. Previous investigation of U. maydis asRNAs identified some that are exclusively expressed in the dormant teliospore, suggesting they have a functional role within this cell-type. A subset of these asRNAs at the uxm1 locus were investigated, with the purpose of identifying the mechanism(s) by which they influence U. maydis pathogenesis. This investigation involved the creation and functional analysis of a series of U. maydis deletion and expression strains. Together, these findings provided additional knowledge regarding the possible functions of U. maydis asRNAs, and their involvement in controlling important cellular processes, such as carbon metabolism and pathogenesis. Author Keywords: antisense transcripts, fungal carbon metabolism, non-coding RNAs, pathogenesis, Ustilago maydis, xylitol dehydrogenase
Interactome Study of Giardia Intestinalis Cytochromes B5
Giardia intestinalis is an anaerobic protozoan that lacks common eukaryotic heme-dependent respiratory complexes and does not encode any proteins involved in heme biosynthesis. Nevertheless, the parasite encodes several hemeproteins, including three members of the Type II cytochrome b5 sub-group of electron transport proteins found in anaerobic protist and amitochondriate organisms. Unlike the more well-characterized cytochrome b5s of animals, no function has been ascribed to any of the Type II proteins. To explore the functions of these Giardia cytochromes (gCYTB5s), I used bioinformatics, immunofluorescence microscopy (IFM) and co-immunoprecipitation assays. The protein-protein interaction in silico prediction tool, STRING, failed to identify relevant interacting partners for any of the Type II cytochromes b5 from Giardia or other organisms. Differential cellular localization of the gCYTB5s was detected by IFM: gCYTB5-I in the perinuclear space; gCYTB5-II in the cytoplasm with a staining pattern similar to peripheral vacuole-associated protein; and gCYTB5-III in the nucleus. Co-immunoprecipitation with the gCYTB5s as bait identified potential interacting proteins for each isotype. The most promising candidate is the uncharacterized protein GL50803_9861, which was identified in the immunoprecipitate of both gCYTB5-I and II, and which co-localizes with both. Structural analysis of GL50803_9861 using Swiss Model, Phyre2, I-TASSER and RaptorX predicts the presence of a nucleotide-binding domain, which is consistent with a potential redox role involving nicotinamide or flavin-containing cofactors. Finally, the protein GL50803_7204 which contains a RNA/DNA binding domain was identified a potential partner of gCYTB5-III. These findings represent the first steps in the discovery of the roles played by these proteins in Giardia. Author Keywords: Cytochrome b5, Giardia intestinalis, Heme, Interactome, Protein structure prediction
Studies of the Giardia intestinalis trophozoite cell cycle
To study the Giardia intestinalis cell cycle, counterflow centrifugal elutriation (CCE) was used to separate an asynchronous trophozoite culture into fractions enriched for cells at the different stages of the cell cycle. For my first objective, I characterized the appearance of a third peak (Peak iii) in our flow cytometry analysis of the CCE fractions that initially suggested the presence of 16N cells that are either cysts or the result of endoreplication of Giardia trophozoites. I determined that this third peak consists of doublets of the 8N trophozoites at the G2 stage of the cell cycle that were not removed effectively by gating parameters used in the analysis of the flow cytometry data. In the second objective, I tested the use of a spike with RNA from the GS isolate of Giardia as an external normalizer in RT-qPCR on RNA from CCE fractions and encystation cultures of Giardia from the WB isolate. My results showed that the GS RNA spike is as effective as the use of previously characterized internal normalizer genes for these studies. For the third objective, I prepared two sets of elutriation samples for RNA seq analysis to determine the transcriptome of the Giardia trophozoite cell cycle. I confirmed the results of the cell cycle specific expression of several genes we had previously tested by RT-qPCR. Furthermore, our RNA-seq identified many genes in common with those identified from a microarray analysis of the Giardia cell cycle conducted by a collaborator. Finally, I observed an overall <4 fold change in differentially expressed genes during the G1/S and G2/M phase of the cell cycle. This is a modest change in gene expression compared to 10 - 30 fold changes for orthologous genes in mammalian cell cycles. Author Keywords: Cell cycle, Counterflow Centrifugal Elutriation, Flow Cytometry, RNA-sequencing, RT-qPCR
Flavohemoglobin expression in Giardia intestinalis exposed to nitrosative stress
The parasitic protist Giardia intestinalis lacks most heme proteins yet encodes a flavohemoglobin (gFlHb) that converts nitric oxide to nitrate and likely protects the cell from nitrosative stress. In this work an antibody raised against gFlHb was used to examine both changes in gFlHb expression levels and intracellular localization in Giardia in response to nitrosative stress. Giardia trophozoites exposed to stressors which either directly release nitric oxide (diethyltriamine NONOate, 1 mM) or are sources of other reactive nitrogen intermediates (sodium nitrite 20 mM or S-nitrosoglutathione, 1 or 5 mM) exhibited a 2 to 9-fold increase of gFlHb after 24 hours. Increased expression levels of gFlHb were detectable by 8 hours in S-nitrosoglutathione and diethyltriamine-NONOate-treated trophozoites, and by 12 hours after sodium nitrite exposure; these differences were likely due to differences in the rates of release of RNS from these compounds. In addition to a band of the expected size for gFlHb (52 kDa), western blots detected a second, higher molecular weight band (72 kDa) with comparable or higher intensity upon treatment with these RNS donors, which is consistent with sumoylation of gFlHb. Immunofluorescence microscopy of Giardia trophozoites detected gFlHb diffused throughout the cytoplasm and more punctuated staining along the cell membrane and between the nuclei. The punctuated staining may be due to the association of gFlHb with either peripheral vacuoles or basal bodies. Author Keywords: Flavohemoglobin, Giardia intestinalis, Nitrosative stress
Characterisation of the Giardia Tata-Binding Protein - Preparation for an in vivo approach
The aim of this work was to identify the DNA sequences recognized by the Giardia TBP (gTBP) in vivo by using a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay (ChIP). Since a specific antibody for the protein of interest is required for this assay, a company was contracted to produce and purify a custom polyclonal antibody from the immunization of rabbits. Recombinant GST-gTBP was produced at a suitable yield and purity and used as the immunogen. The antibody was then tested for reactivity to the native protein in our laboratory. By Western blot analysis, it was possible to observe the enrichment of the gTBP within the nuclear fraction compared to a cytoplasmic fraction extracted from Giardia cells. However, the antibody could not be successfully used in an immunoprecipitation assay - suggesting that the antibody is unable to bind to the native structure of gTBP. Therefore, the focus of this work was changed to analyse gTBP via multiple sequence alignments, homology modelling and BLAST to identify any unique regions that may contribute to its unusual binding characteristics. These techniques were also used to identify specific regions of gTBP that may be used to generate synthetic peptides as immunogens for future antibody production. Author Keywords: ChIP, Giardia intestinalis, Homology modelling, Immunoprecipitation, TATA-binding protein, Western Blotting
Genome annotation, gene characterization, and the functional analysis of natural antisense transcripts in the fungal plant pathogen Ustilago maydis
Ustilago maydis (DC) Corda is the causal agent of 'common smut of corn'. Completion of the U. maydis lifecycle is dependent on development inside its host, Zea mays. Symptoms of U. maydis infection include chlorosis and the formation of tumours on all aerial corn tissues. Within the tumours, thick-walled diploid teliospores form; these are the reproductive and dispersal agent for the fungus. U. maydis is the model to study basidiomycete biotrophic plant-pathogen interactions. It holds this status in part because of the completely sequenced 20.5 Mb genome; however, thorough genome annotation is required to fully realize the value of this resource. The research presented here improved U. maydis genome annotation through the analysis of cDNA library sequences and comparative genomics. These analyses identified and characterized pathogenesis-related genes, and identified putative meiosis genes. This enabled the use of U. maydis as a model for investigating 'host-induced' meiosis. Further, the cDNA library analyses identified non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) and natural antisense transcripts (NATs). NATs are endogenous RNA molecules with regions complementary to a protein-coding transcript. Although NATs have been identified in a wide variety of mammals, plants, and fungi, very few have been functionally characterized. Over 200 U. maydis NATs were annotated by analyzing full-length cDNA sequences. NAT structural features were characterized. Strand-specific RT-PCR was used to detect NATs in U. maydis and in a related smut fungus, U. hordei. The data supported a common role for NATs in smut teliospore development, independent of the RNA interference pathway. Analysis of the expression of one U. maydis NAT, as-um02151, in haploid cells, led to a model for NAT function in U. maydis during teliospore dormancy. This model proposed NATs facilitate the maintenance of stored mRNAs through the formation of double-stranded RNA. In testing this model, it was determined that the deletion of two separate upstream regulatory regions, one of which contained a ncRNA (ncRNA1), altered NAT levels and decreased pathogenesis. These studies strengthened U. maydis as a model organism, and began the functional investigation of NATs in U. maydis, which identified a new class of fungal pathogenesis genes. Author Keywords: cDNA library analysis, genome annotation, mRNA stability, natural antisense transcripts, pathogenesis, Ustilago maydis

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