Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

First Advisor

Gia Voeltz


The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a dynamic organelle responsible for essential cell functions such as protein folding, calcium storage, and lipid synthesis. It also directly interacts with and regulates other organelles in the cell, such as endosomes or mitochondria, and is the site of bulk protein synthesis for both secretion and the cellular endomembrane system. However, cellular stressors such as heat shock, chemical imbalance, or calcium depletion can disrupt the protein-folding capacity of the ER, causing activation of the ER-mediated unfolded protein response (UPR) in order to either restore homeostasis or initiate apoptosis. Chronic ER stress is a hallmark of viral and bacterial infections, neurodegenerative disorders, cancers, and diseases such as retinis pigmentosa, yet little is known about the morphology changes of mammalian ER upon activation of the UPR. This change is important to characterize because recent evidence shows that the shape of the ER is directly related to its many functions. Here we use a system of live-cell tracking to show a marked morphology change in mammalian ER upon the onset of UPR. In the future we hope to characterize the purpose of UPR-mediated membrane expansion in concert with effects on ER dynamics and organelle contacts.