• Youth Involvement in Organizational Decision Making: The Connection to Youth Initiative and Organizational Functioning

      Ramey, Heather; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2012-07-31)
      Studying positive adolescent development requires an examination of the mutually beneficial associations between youth and their environment. These youthcontext relations include both the contributions that youth make to others and society and the youth-context interactions that might predict positive youth outcomes. Community and youth-serving organizations, where youth may be involved in decision-making roles such as service delivery, advocacy, or on boards of directors, can provide one important context for youth contributions and for positive adolescent development. Research on the outcomes of youth involvement in organizational decision-making, however, is limited, and largely consists of exploratory qualitative studies. This dissertation is formatted as an integrated article dissertation. It begins with a review of the literature on contexts of structured youth activities and positive youth development. This review is intended to describe theory on development-context relations, in which development is considered an interactive process that occurs between individuals and their contexts, as it pertains the positive development of youth who are involved in various structured activities (e.g., volunteering). This description follows with a review of current research, and conclusions and rationale for the current studies. Following this theoretical and research background, the dissertation includes reports of two studies that were designed to address gaps in the research on youth involvement in organizational decision-making. The first was a qualitative research synthesis to elucidate and summarize the extant qualitative research on the outcomes of youth involvement in organizational decision making on adults and organizations. Results of this study suggested a number of outcomes for service provision, staff, and broader organizational functioning, including both benefits to organizations as well as some costs. The second study was a quantitative analysis of the associations among youth involvement, organizations' learning culture, and youth initiative, and relied on survey data gathered from adults and youth in community-based organizations with youth involvement. As expected, greater youth involvement in organizational decision making was associated with higher learning culture within the organization. Two dimensions of youth involvement, greater program engagement and relationships with adults, were related to greater youth initiative. A third dimension, sense of ownership, was not- .-.- associated with youth's level of initiative. Moreover, the association between relationships with adults and youth initiative was only significant in organizations with relatively low learning culture. Despite some limitations, these studies contribute to the research literature by providing some indication of the potential benefits and costs of youth involvement and by making an important contribution toward the early stages of context-level analyses of youth development. Findings have important implications for practitioners, funders, future research, and lifespan development theory.
    • The γ-tocopherol-like family of N-methyltransferases: A taxonomically clustered gene family encoding enzymes responsible for N-methylation of monoterpene indole alkaloids

      Levac, Dylan Edward Ryan; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 2013-09-19)
      The plant family Apocynaceae accumulates thousands of monoterpene indole alkaloids (MIAs) which originate, biosynthetically, from the common secoiridoid intermediate, strictosidine, that is formed from the condensation of tryptophan and secologanin molecules. MIAs demonstrate remarkable structural diversity and have pharmaceutically valuable biological activities. For example; a subunit of the potent anti-neoplastic molecules vincristine and vinblastine is the aspidosperma alkaloid, vindoline. Vindoline accumulates to trace levels under natural conditions. Research programs have determined that there is significant developmental and light regulation involved in the biosynthesis of this MIA. Furthermore, the biosynthetic pathway leading to vindoline is split among at least five independent cell types. Little is known of how intermediates are shuttled between these cell types. The late stage events in vindoline biosynthesis involve six enzymatic steps from tabersonine. The fourth biochemical step, in this pathway, is an indole N-methylation performed by a recently identified N-methyltransfearse (NMT). For almost twenty years the gene encoding this NMT had eluded discovery; however, in 2010 Liscombe et al. reported the identification of a γ-tocopherol C-methyltransferase homologue capable of indole N-methylating 2,3-dihydrotabersonine and Virus Induced Gene Silencing (VIGS) suppression of the messenger has since proven its involvement in vindoline biosynthesis. Recent large scale sequencing initiatives, performed on non-model medicinal plant transcriptomes, has permitted identification of candidate genes, presumably involved, in MIA biosynthesis never seen before in plant specialized metabolism research. Probing the transcriptome assemblies of Catharanthus roseus (L.)G.Don, Vinca minor L., Rauwolfia serpentine (L.)Benth ex Kurz, Tabernaemontana elegans, and Amsonia hubrichtii, with the nucleotide sequence of the N-methyltransferase involved in vindoline biosynthesis, revealed eight new homologous methyltransferases. This thesis describes the identification, molecular cloning, recombinant expression and biochemical characterization of two picrinine NMTs, one from V. minor and one from R. serpentina, a perivine NMT from C. roseus, and an ajmaline NMT from R. serpentina. While these TLMTs were expressed and functional in planta, they were active at relatively low levels and their N-methylated alkaloid products were not apparent our from alkaloid isolates of the plants. It appears that, for the most part, these TLMTs, participate in apparently silent biochemical pathways, awaiting the appropriate developmental and environmental cues for activity.