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2021 Student Research Posters

Presenter: Abdiel Rodriguez 

Institution: University of Florida

Title: Characterizing Protein-Protein Interactions of the Francisella Type Six Secretion System

Authors: Abdiel Rodriguez, University of Florida: Department of Biology Danielle Hulvey, University of Florida: Department of Infectious Disease and Immunology Rocio Zaldivar, University of Florida: Department of Microbiology and Cell Sciences Aria Eshraghi, University of Florida: Department of Infectious Disease and Immunology

Abstract: Francisella are intracellular bacterial pathogens that cause tularemia, a zoonotic disease that can be fatal if left untreated. Because it is highly pathogenic, easily disseminated, and has been developed as a biological weapon, Francisella are characterized as a category A agent of bioterrorism. These bacteria invade the cytoplasm of phagocytic cells where they proliferate up to 1000-fold and cause lysis. A gene cluster called the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI) encodes a type VI secretion system (T6SS) that is required for intracellular growth. The T6SS is a well-characterized multi-subunit contractile nanomachine that injects toxins into neighboring cells and is encoded by approximately 25% of all sequenced Gram-negative bacteria, playing a major role in the virulence of many human pathogens. Although the T6SS is required for virulence, we lack a structural understanding of how the apparatus injects toxins into host cells to support pathogenesis. Our goal is to characterize the protein-protein interactions of the T6SS subunits and determine how these interactions lead to toxin secretion. We have genetically fused a VSV-G epitope tag to the FPI genes and used PCR and sequencing to confirm proper placement of the epitope in the genome. Immunoprecipitation-western blot analysis of the epitope-encoding strains revealed that the FPI proteins are expressed and stable. Our future work will identify proteins that interact with T6SS subunits by using immunoprecipitation-mass spectrometry. By characterizing the interactions between the FPI encoded proteins, we will elucidate the mechanistic details underlying T6SS-dependent pathogenesis. Understanding this unique T6SS will lead to developing therapeutic interventions to prevent and treat tularemia and other diseases that are caused by T6SS-encoding bacteria.    

Presenter: Joseph Holman

Institution: Seminole State College

Title: Investigating the Disproportionate Number of Black Females with TNBC

Authors: Joseph Holman, Dr. Maya Byfield, Krishna Patel

Abstract: Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed for women in the United States and while it can occur in both men and women, women are much more likely to develop it. About 10 to 15 percent of all breast cancers presents itself as a more aggressive form called Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) which often has a poorer prognosis. TNBC refers to the fact that these cancer cells do not have estrogen or progesterone receptors and lack an excess of a protein called human epidermal growth factor (HER2) which leads to TNBC being easily missed. Previous research has shown that black patients have lower incidence rates for breast cancer, however they have a substantially higher mortality rate when compared to whites. Due to currently unknown factors, TNBC has a significantly worse prognosis for black patients. The purpose of this poster was to investigate if stress from marital status could play a role in the higher mortality rate for black patients with TNBC. To accomplish this, we utilized the SEER database to obtain the number of black and white females with TNBC along with their marital status at diagnosis from Fulton and Dekalb counties in Georgia. From this data we were able to compare the percentage of black and white females with TNBC categorized by marital status. Interestingly, in both counties there were more black females with TNBC who were single and comparatively more white females who were married at diagnosis. Our findings indicate that black females have higher rates of TNBC and along with a disproportionate amount who are single or divorced. While these findings cannot conclude that stress from marital status is the cause of the disproportionate numbers, it may allude to stress being a factor and a place for further investigation.

Presenter: Sajina Jacob

Institution: Benedictine University

Title: Students Saving Our Specimens
Authors: Sajina Jacob; Sara Jablonski; Rachel Carlson; Tanya Rasha

Abstract: The Jurica-Suchy Museum at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, cares for over 10,000 specimens collected through the work of Frs. Hilary and Edmund Jurica, O.S.B., and Fr. Theodore Suchy, O.S.B. The JSNM is currently in the process of completing a major two-year digitization project with the availability of new funding made possible in part by the Inspire! Grants for Small Museums through the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MA-35-190117-19]. The goal of the project is to digitize the research collection, a subset of the main collection which consists of approximately 4,500 fossils and eggs. These research-quality specimens are part of the original collection from the museum founders, collected during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Undergraduate students were given the opportunity to photograph and catalog the collection using the online database, Arctos. Training in careful handling of both paleontological and egg specimens was provided and photographs showing the front and back of each specimen were taken. The specimens were examined for deterioration and if discovered was noted within the catalog. Due to current pandemic precautions, students continue their work on the project remotely. Every week student researchers are provided with photos of fossil or egg specimens and use Excel to categorize various aspects of each fossil, including its scientific name, where it was found, and its condition. Once the initial work is completed, the data is reviewed by museum staff and uploaded to the Arctos database. Through this process, 2,448 fossils have been cataloged over the period of the first year of the grant.

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