Honours students

Listed below are the current projects available for biology and biochemistry honours students in the Storey Lab:

Mammalian Hibernation

Escape to a state of cold torpor is essential to winter survival for many small mammals (we work on ground squirrels and bats). Metabolic rate is suppressed to <5% of normal and we are interested in the gene controls involved. Multiple projects are available on two general themes: (1) epigenetic controls that regulate the strong global suppression of gene transcription: students will useimmunoblotting to explore the modifications of histone proteins (e.g. by acetylation or phosphorylation) that gate access to DNA by the transcriptional machinery, and (2) hibernation-responsive gene expression: a few genes are strongly up-regulated during hibernation, most producing proteins that help to protect cellular macromolecules, and students can explore this process at multiple levels including signal transduction cascades, activation and nuclear translocation of transcription factors, use of PCR to measure gene-specific mRNA levels, and immunoblotting to analyze the levels of protein products.

Anoxia Tolerance: Enzymatic Regulation for Life Without Oxygen

Various animals undergo long periods of oxygen deprivation in their natural environments. To enhance survival they conserve energy by strongly suppressing nonessential energy-expensive metabolic processes such as biosynthesis. Using animal models of anoxia tolerant turtles or snails, several projects are available to explore the regulation of important enzymes that must be inhibited under anoxia. Current interest is on enzymes that provide NADPH reducing power to drive various chemical syntheses such as glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, isocitratedehydrogenase, malic enzyme, and malate dehydrogenase. Projects involve protein purification techniques, spectrophotometric enzyme assay and kinetic analysis, immunoblotting, and a search for regulatory controls such as protein phosphorylation.

Freeze Tolerance

Many animals spend the winter frozen ! Up to 65% of their body water freezes as ice in extracellular compartments while multiple cryopreservation strategies are put to work to protect the intracellular environment. Using models of freeze tolerant frogs, turtles and snails, several projects are available that explore the transcriptional and translational regulation of cryoprotectant proteins. Studies can trace the signal transduction cascades that transmit freezing signals to the nucleus, analyze the activation and nuclear translocation of freeze-responsive transcription factors, use PCR to measure gene-specific mRNA levels, and apply immunoblotting to analyze the levels of specific protein products.

Insect Cold Hardiness

Winter survival for thousands of species of insects requires the synthesis of cryoprotectants that protect cells and their macromolecules from cold stress. Synthesis requires a massive seasonally-dependent redirection of carbohydrate flow to produce polyhydric alcohol cryoprotectants. Multiple projects in enzymology are available to examine the biochemical regulation of key enzymes in the biosynthetic pathway in our two model species of goldenrod gall forming insects. Projects involve protein purification, spectrophotometric enzyme assay and kinetic analysis, and a search for reversible phosphorylation controls that could provide on/off regulation.