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2002 Interns

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Jim Collins, Southeast Missouri State University 
Mentor: Dr. Chris Taylor 
Project: Isolation and characterization of bacteria exhibiting proteinaceous nematicidal activity
 
Plant parasitic nematodes are among the most damaging of plant pathogens. This project screens soil bacteria to identify species producing nematicidal proteins. Transfer of genes coding for these proteins into plants may lead to plants with resistance to nematodes. 

Laura Ernst, Washington University in St. Louis 
Mentor: Dr. Daniel Schachtman 
Project: Phenotypic analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana KUP (K+ Uptake Permease) knockout plants
 
Using specific transport proteins, the roots of plants serve to acquire and exclude minerals from the soil. This project analyzes knockout mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana in which one of the 35 different known potassium transport proteins are affected. These studies will reveal the function of individual potassium transporters (focusing specifically on the KUP family) and their potential relation to sodium exclusion--a trait that is increasingly important as saline soils become more common. 

Rachel Maltman, University of Missouri-Columbia 
Mentors: Dr. Dilip Shah and Dr. Nigel Taylor 
Project: A comparison of transformation methods for the model legume Medicago trunculata
 
Medicago trunculata is a suitable model system for genetic transformation of legumes. Current methods of transformation are time-consuming and labor-intensive. This project combines cell culture and molecular biology to examine several methods of transformation their relative efficiency. 

Kerry Massman, Truman State University 
Mentor: Dr. Terry Woodford-Thomas 
Project: Plants: The future platform for antibody production
 
Over ten million people globally receive post-exposure treatment for rabies. In developing countries, this treatment is harder to get. This project focuses on determining the effectiveness of plant production of anti-rabies therapeutic antibodies. Transgenic tobacco plants expressing either the heavy or light chain of human monoclonal antibody were crossed and the resulting lines analyzed for production of full-sized antibody. In addition, a plant expression vector for production of a single-chain antibody is being developed. 

Ben Millett, Truman State University 
Mentor: Dr. Yiji Xia 
Project: Disease resistance influenced by levels of CDR1 expression in Arabidopsis thaliana
 
The cdr1 gene of Arabidopsis thaliana codes for a protein involved in systemic acquired resistance. Over-expression of the cdr1 gene, which encodes an aspartic protease, results in plants with a distinct, dwarfed phenotype. This project studies mutants that have a suppressed expression of cdr1 to understand how such mutations can affect defense responses. 

Devin Nichols, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
Mentor: Dr. Oliver Yu 
Project: Identification of transcription factors that regulate expression of the isoflavone synthase gene
 
Isoflavones are naturally occurring compounds in legumes that have been shown to have many health benefits including reducing the risk of some cancers. This project studies isoflavone synthase, the key gene separating the isoflavone pathway from the general phenylpropanoid pathway. Identification of transcription factors that bind to the promoter region of isoflavone synthase will demonstrate factors that enhance or suppress the pathway. Understanding regulation of isoflavone production may lead to development of plants with enhanced amounts of isoflavone. 

Julie Plocher, University of Illinios at Urbana-Champaign 
Mentor: Dr. Mark Running 
Project: Double mutant analysis of the PLURIPETALA gene from Arabidopsis thaliana
 
All plant parts are formed from small groups of pluripotent cells called meristems. This project studies the genetic mechanisms controlling the activity of meristems. The Arabidopsis thaliana meristem mutant PLURIPETALA (PLP) is cross-pollinated with other developmental and hormonal mutants; double mutants obtained are analyzed for phenotypes that give insight into which metabolic pathways the PLP gene interacts with. 

Julie Strandquist, Truman State University 
Mentor: Dr. Erik Nielsen 
Project: A signal peptide used to study membrane trafficking to the vacuole of plant cells
 
Signal peptides, present on many different proteins in the cell, have been found to direct the transfer of these proteins to different types of storage compartments. Signal peptide/YFP constructs are being transformed into cells with mutant Rab GTPases. Rab GTPases are an essential component of membrane trafficking.