Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

First Advisor

Amy Palmer

Second Advisor

Jennifer Martin

Third Advisor

Nancy Guild

Fourth Advisor

Jennifer Knight


Zn2+ is an essential micronutrient, and the effect of Zn2+ deficiency is particularly evident in the diminished functioning of the immune system. There is growing evidence of Zn2+’s involvement in immune function and its potential as a signaling species. Although the current literature supports importance of Zn2+ in the function of all immune cell types, we chose to focus our study on T cells particularly because of their role in orchestrating continued adaptive immune response. FRET based Zn2+ sensors have been used to reliably visualize Zn2+ in adherent cell types. We sought to develop a model system using Jurkat lymphocytes to apply these tools to parse out role of Zn2+ in T cell behavior. Over the course of the study, we optimized methods to transfect these tools into Jurkats, perform imaging, and ensure sensors were functioning properly. Additionally, we confirmed stimulation of the Jurkat cells to ensure proper T cell activation. We find that T cells have more free zinc than adherent cells, and that we can successfully stimulate them. With these tools in hand we hope to provide insight into Zn2+’s role in T cell function.