Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Zoe Donaldson

Second Advisor

Dr. David Root

Third Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Martin

Abstract

As humans, we experience the profound biological necessity to form social bonds from the moment of birth. These bonds are imperative for normal development and impact our health and well-being, with strong social networks acting as a primary predictor of longevity. The lack of or disruption of such bonds can be debilitating, as shown by increased rates of mental and physical illnesses. Our understanding of social bonds has been limited because commonly used laboratory model organisms, such as rats and mice, do not form partner-specific social bonds. To study complex social behaviors, the monogamous rodent, the prairie vole (M. ochrogaster), has provided a valuable model as they form life-long pair bonds. Studies looking at hormonal and peptidergic regulation of pair bonding have identified candidate genes in the formation and maintenance of pair bonds, but little is known about the global transcriptional changes that accompany pair bond formation. Here, I pioneer in voles translating ribosome affinity purification (TRAP) with the aim of purifying actively translating mRNA from genetically defined cell types within the nucleus accumbens. I show that the TRAP transgene is highly expressed in a Cre recombinase-dependent manner. Further optimizations are required in order to obtain more highly intact actively translating mRNAs. We propose combining TRAP with an activity dependent labeling system in voles, allowing for the isolation of actively translating mRNA in cells active during mating and evidence for the first time of the global changes in transcription that accompany pair bond formation.

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