• The Fast Regulation of Photosynthesis in Diatoms: an inquiry into the physiological and physical origins of non-photochemical chlorophyll fluorescence quenching.

      Derks, Allen Kimbell; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 2015-01-06)
      Diatoms are renowned for their robust ability to perform NPQ (Non-Photochemical Quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence) as a dissipative response to heightened light stress on photosystem II, plausibly explaining their dominance over other algal groups in turbulent light environs. Their NPQ mechanism has been principally attributed to a xanthophyll cycle involving the lumenal pH regulated reversible de-epoxidation of diadinoxanthin. The principal goal of this dissertation is to reveal the physiological and physical origins and consequences of the NPQ response in diatoms during short-term transitions to excessive irradiation. The investigation involves diatom species from different originating light environs to highlight the diversity of diatom NPQ and to facilitate the detection of core mechanisms common among the diatoms as a group. A chiefly spectroscopic approach was used to investigate NPQ in diatom cells. Prime methodologies include: the real time monitoring of PSII excitation and de-excitation pathways via PAM fluorometry and pigment interconversion via transient absorbance measurements, the collection of cryogenic absorbance spectra to measure pigment energy levels, and the collection of cryogenic fluorescence spectra and room temperature picosecond time resolved fluorescence decay spectra to study excitation energy transfer and dissipation. Chemical inhibitors that target the trans-thylakoid pH gradient, the enzyme responsible for diadinoxanthin de-epoxidation, and photosynthetic electron flow were additionally used to experimentally manipulate the NPQ response. Multifaceted analyses of the NPQ responses from two previously un-photosynthetically characterised species, Nitzschia curvilineata and Navicula sp., were used to identify an excitation pressure relief ‘strategy’ for each species. Three key areas of NPQ were examined: (i) the NPQ activation/deactivation processes, (ii) how NPQ affects the collection, dissipation, and usage of absorbed light energy, and (iii) the interdependence of NPQ and photosynthetic electron flow. It was found that Nitzschia cells regulate excitation pressure via performing a high amplitude, reversible antenna based quenching which is dependent on the de-epoxidation of diadinoxanthin. In Navicula cells excitation pressure could be effectively regulated solely within the PSII reaction centre, whilst antenna based, diadinoxanthin de-epoxidation dependent quenching was implicated to be used as a supplemental, long-lasting source of excitation energy dissipation. These strategies for excitation balance were discussed in the context of resource partitioning under these species’ originating light climates. A more detailed investigation of the NPQ response in Nitzschia was used to develop a comprehensive model describing the mechanism for antenna centred non-photochemical quenching in this species. The experimental evidence was strongly supportive of a mechanism whereby: an acidic lumen triggers the diadinoxanthin de-epoxidation and protonation mediated aggregation of light harvesting complexes leading to the formation of quencher chlorophyll a-chlorophyll a dimers with short-lived excited states; quenching relaxes when a rise in lumen pH triggers the dispersal of light harvesting complex aggregates via deprotonation events and the input of diadinoxanthin. This model may also be applicable for describing antenna based NPQ in other diatom species.
    • Functional antagonism of the mesolimbic dopaminergic system on mesolimbic cholinergic system in the vocal expression of an emotional state

      Silkstone, Michael; Department of Biological Sciences
      The overarching goal of this thesis was to determine if the initiation of a positive emotional state could antagonize the expression of a negative emotional state in rats. The hypothesis of the thesis argued that the initiation of a positive emotional state would ameliorate the vocal expression of a negative emotional state. The subjective emotional state of the rat was indexed by the quantity and type of pharmacologically induced ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs). Adolescent and adult rats can emit vocalizations above the upper threshold of human hearing (>20 kHz) termed ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs). These USVs are broadly divided into 50-kHz, reflective of a positive emotional state, and 22-kHz USVs, reflective of a negative emotional state. Pharmacologically, injection of dopamine agonists into the nucleus accumbens shell is sufficient for the initiation of 50-kHz USVs, while injection of cholinergic agonists into the anterior hypothalamic-medial preoptic area (AH-MPO) or the lateral septum (LS) can initiate 22-kHz USVs. In chapter two of the thesis, I demonstrated that microinjection of the dopamine agonist, apomorphine, into the medial shell of the nucleus accumbens attenuated the extent of carbachol-induced 22-kHz USVs from the AH-MPO. I also demonstrated that this effect was dependent upon the microinjection of apomorphine into the central region of the nucleus accumbens shell. In chapter three, I demonstrated that apomorphine could also decrease the extent of carbachol-induced 22-kHz USVs from the LS providing evidence that the effect reported in chapter two was not isolated to the AH-MPO, but rather extending along the medial cholinoceptive vocalization strip. In the third chapter. I also demonstrated that the magnitude of the reduction in the number of 22-kHz USVs was correlated to the number of emitted frequency-modulated (FM) 50-kHz USVs induced by apomorphine. In the fourth chapter, I investigated whether blocking dopamine receptors, either systemically using the typical D2-antipsychotic agent, haloperidol, or microinjection of the D2 antagonist, raclopride, into the nucleus accumbens shell could increase the emission of carbachol-induced 22-kHz USVs from the LS. The results showed that antagonism of dopamine receptors, either systemically or intracerebrally, did not increase the number of 22-kHz USVs. Interestingly, it was also observed that after the prolonged recording of carbachol-induced 22-kHz USVs, some 50-kHz USVs spontaneously appeared after roughly 300 s into the recording. I argued that these 50-kHz USVs, which I defined as “rebound 50-kHz USVs” are not initiated by carbachol since they occurred when the carbachol-response weaned. It was also demonstrated these rebound 50-kHz USVs were dependent upon dopamine release within the nucleus accumbens since both systemic, and intracerebral application of dopamine antagonists into the central division of the nucleus accumbens shell blocked the occurrence of rebound 50-kHz USVs. Altogether, the data supports the thesis that activation of a positive emotional state decreases the expression of the negative emotional state in rats when measured using ultrasonic vocalizations.
    • Functional genomics of O-glucosyltransferases from Concord grape (Vitis labrusca)

      Hall, Dawn.; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 2007-05-28)
      Grape (Vitis spp.) is a culturally and economically important crop plant that has been cultivated for thousands of years, primarily for the production of wine. Grape berries accumulate a myriad of phenylpropanoid secondary metabolites, many of which are glucosylated in plantae More than 90 O-glucosyltransferases have been cloned and biochemically characterized from plants, only two of which have been isolated from Vitis spp. The world-wide economic importance of grapes as a crop plant, the human health benefits associated with increased consumption of grape-derived metabolites, the biological relevance of glucosylation, and the lack of information about Vitis glucosyltransferases has inspired the identification, cloning and biochemical characterization of five novel "family 1" O-glucosyltransferases from Concord grape (Vitis labrusca cv. Concord). Protein purification and associated protein sequencIng led to the molecular cloning of UDP-glucose: resveratrollhydroxycinnamic acid O-glucosyltransferase (VLRSGT) from Vitis labrusca berry mesocarp tissue. In addition to being the first glucosyltransferase which accepts trans-resveratrol as a substrate to be characterized in vitro, the recombinant VLRSGT preferentially produces the glucose esters of hydroxycinnamic acids at pH 6.0, and the glucosides of trans-resveratrol and flavonols at 'pH 9.0; the first demonstration of pH-dependent bifunctional glucosylation for this class of enzymes. Gene expression and metabolite profiling support a role for this enzyme in the bifuncitonal glucosylation ofstilbenes and hydroxycinnamic acids in plantae A homology-based approach to cloning was used to identify three enzymes from the Vitis vinifera TIGR grape gene index which had high levels of protein sequence iii identity to previously characterized UDP-glucose: anthocyanin 5-0-glucosyltransferases. Molecular cloning and biochemical characterization demonstrated that these enzymes (rVLOGTl, rVLOGT2, rVLOGT3) glucosylate the 7-0-position of flavonols and the xenobiotic 2,4,5-trichlorophenol (TCP), but not anthocyanins. Variable gene expression throughout grape berry development and enzyme assays with native grape berry protein are consistent with a role for these enzymes in the glucosylation of flavonols; while the broad substrate specificity, the ability of these enzymes to glucosylate TCP and expression of these genes in tissues which are subject to pathogen attack (berry, flower, bud) is consistent with a role for these genes in the plant defense response. Additionally, the Vitis labrusca UDP-glucose: flavonoid 3-0-glucosyltransferase (VL3GT) was identified, cloned and characterized. VL3GT has 96 % protein sequence identity to the previously characterized Vitis vinifera flavonoid 3-0-glucosyltransferase (VV3GT); and glucosylates the 3-0-position of anthocyanidins and flavonols in vitro. Despite high levels of protein sequence identity, VL3GT has distinct biochemical characteristics (as compared to VV3GT), including a preference for B-ring methylated flavonoids and the inability to use UDP-galactose as a donor substrate. RT-PCR analysis of VL3GT gene expression and enzyme assays with native grape protein is consistent with an in planta role for this enzyme in the glucosylation of anthocyanidins,but not flavonols. These studies reveal the power of combining several biochemistry- and molecular biology-based tools to identify, clone, biochemically characterize and elucidate the in planta function of several biologically relevant O-glucosyltransferases from Vitis spp.
    • HUMAN GENOME VARIATIONS AND EVOLUTION WITH A FOCUS ON THE ANALYSIS OF TRANSPOSABLE ELEMENTS

      Ahmed, Musaddeque; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 2014-02-19)
      Genome sequence varies in numerous ways among individuals although the gross architecture is fixed for all humans. Retrotransposons create one of the most abundant structural variants in the human genome and are divided in many families, with certain members in some families, e.g., L1, Alu, SVA, and HERV-K, remaining active for transposition. Along with other types of genomic variants, retrotransponson-derived variants contribute to the whole spectrum of genome variants in humans. With the advancement of sequencing techniques, many human genomes are being sequenced at the individual level, fueling the comparative research on these variants among individuals. In this thesis, the evolution and functional impact of structural variations is examined primarily focusing on retrotransposons in the context of human evolution. The thesis comprises of three different studies on the topics that are presented in three data chapters. First, the recent evolution of all human specific AluYb members, representing the second most active subfamily of Alus, was tracked to identify their source/master copy using a novel approach. All human-specific AluYb elements from the reference genome were extracted, aligned with one another to construct clusters of similar copies and each cluster was analyzed to generate the evolutionary relationship between the members of the cluster. The approach resulted in identification of one major driver copy of all human specific Yb8 and the source copy of the Yb9 lineage. Three new subfamilies within the AluYb family – Yb8a1, Yb10 and Yb11 were also identified, with Yb11 being the youngest and most polymorphic. Second, an attempt to construct a relation between transposable elements (TEs) and tandem repeats (TRs) was made at a genome-wide scale for the first time. Upon sequence comparison, positional cross-checking and other relevant analyses, it was observed that over 20% of all TRs are derived from TEs. This result established the first connection between these two types of repetitive elements, and extends our appreciation for the impact of TEs on genomes. Furthermore, only 6% of these TE-derived TRs follow the already postulated initiation and expansion mechanisms, suggesting that the others are likely to follow a yet-unidentified mechanism. Third, by taking a combination of multiple computational approaches involving all types of genetic variations published so far including transposable elements, the first whole genome sequence of the most recent common ancestor of all modern human populations that diverged into different populations around 125,000-100,000 years ago was constructed. The study shows that the current reference genome sequence is 8.89 million base pairs larger than our common ancestor’s genome, contributed by a whole spectrum of genetic mechanisms. The use of this ancestral reference genome to facilitate the analysis of personal genomes was demonstrated using an example genome and more insightful recent evolutionary analyses involving the Neanderthal genome. The three data chapters presented in this thesis conclude that the tandem repeats and transposable elements are not two entirely distinctly isolated elements as over 20% TRs are actually derived from TEs. Certain subfamilies of TEs themselves are still evolving with the generation of newer subfamilies. The evolutionary analyses of all TEs along with other genomic variants helped to construct the genome sequence of the most recent common ancestor to all modern human populations which provides a better alternative to human reference genome and can be a useful resource for the study of personal genomics, population genetics, human and primate evolution.
    • Identification and characterization of a Catharanthus roseus mutant altered in monoterpenoid indole alkaloid biosynthesis

      Thamm, Antje MK; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 2014-09-09)
      The Madagascar periwinkle [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don] is a commercially important horticultural flower species and is the only source for several pharmaceutically valuable monoterpenoid indole alkaloids (MIAs), including the powerful antihypertensive ajmalicine and the antineoplastic agents vincristine and vinblastine. While biosynthesis of MIA precursors has been elucidated, conversion of the common MIA precursor strictosidine to MIAs of different families, for example ajmalicine, catharanthine or vindoline, remains uncharacterized. Deglycosylation of strictosidine by the key enzyme Strictosidine beta-glucosidase (SGD) leads to a pool of uncharacterized reaction products that are diverted into the different MIA families, but the downstream reactions are uncharacterized. Screening of 3600 EMS (ethyl methane sulfonate) mutagenized C. roseus plants to identify mutants with altered MIA profiles yielded one plant with high ajmalicine, and low catharanthine and vindoline content. RNA sequencing and comparative bioinformatics of mutant and wildtype plants showed up-regulation of SGD and the transcriptional repressor Zinc finger Catharanthus transcription factor (ZCT1) in the mutant line. The increased SGD activity in mutants seems to yield a larger pool of uncharacterized SGD reaction products that are channeled away from catharanthine and vindoline towards biosynthesis of ajmalicine when compared to the wildtype. Further bioinformatic analyses, and crossings between mutant and wildtype suggest a transcription factor upstream of SGD and ZCT1 to be mutated, leading to up-regulation of Sgd and Zct1. The crossing experiments further show that biosynthesis of the different MIA families is differentially regulated and highly complex. Three new transcription factors were identified by bioinformatics that seem to be involved in the regulation of Zct1 and Sgd expression, leading to the high ajmalicine phenotype. Increased cathenamine reductase activity in the mutant converts the pool of SGD reaction products into ajmalicine and its stereoisomer tetrahydroalstonine. The stereochemistry of ajmalicine and tetrahydroalstonine biosynthesis in vivo and in vitro was further characterized. In addition, a new clade of perakine reductase-like enzymes was identified that reduces the SGD reaction product vallesiachotamine in a stereo-specific manner, characterizing one of the many reactions immediately downstream of SGD that determine the different MIA families. This study establishes that RNA sequencing and comparative bioinformatics, in combination with molecular and biochemical characterization, are valuable tools to determine the genetic basis for mutations that trigger phenotypes, and this approach can also be used for identification of new enzymes and transcription factors.
    • Identification and characterization of retinoic acid-induced morphological and electrophysiological changes in an invertebrate nervous system

      Vesprini, Nicholas; Department of Biological Sciences (2012-07-31)
      The vitamin A metabolite, retinoic acid (RA) is known to play an important role in the development, patterning and regeneration of nervous tissue, both in the embryo and in the adult. Classically, RA is known to mediate the transcription of target genes through the binding and activation ofits nuclear receptors: the retinoic acid receptors (RARs) and retinoid X receptors (RXRs). Recently, mounting evidence from many animal models has implicated a number of RA-mediated effects operating independently of gene transcription, and thus highlights nove~ nongenornic actions of RA. For example, recent work utilizing cultured neurons from the pond snaa Lymnaea stagnalis, has shown that RA can elicit a regenerative response, growth cone turning, independently of "classical" transcriptional activation While this work illustrates a novel regeneration-inducing effect in culture, it is currently -unknown whether RA also induces regeneration in situ. This study has sought to determine RA's regenerative effucts at the morphological and molecular levels by utilizing an in situ approach focusing on a single identified dopaminergic neuron which possesses a known "mapped" morphology within the CNS. These studies show, for the first time in an invertebrate, that RA can increase neurite outgrowth of dopaminergic cells that have undergone a nerve-crush injury. Utilizing Western blot analysis, it was shown that this effect appears to be independent of any changes in whole CNS expression levels of either the RAR or RXR. Additionally, utilizing immunohistochemistry, to examine protein localization, there does not appear to be any obvious changes in the RXR expression level at the crush site. Changes in cell morphology such as neurity extension are known to be modulated by changes in neuronal firing activity. It has been previously shown that exposure to RA over many days can lead to changes in the electrophysiological properties of cultured Lymnaea neurons; however, no studies have investigated whether short-term exposure to RA can elicit electrophysiological changes and/or changes in firing pattern of neurons in Lymnaea or any other species. The studies performed here show, for the first time in any species, that short-tenn treatment with RA can elicit significant changes in the firing properties of both identified dopaminergic neurons and peptidergic neurons. This effect appears to be independent of protein synthesis, activation of protein kinase A or phospholipase C, and calcium influx but is both dose-dependent and isomer-dependent. These studies provide evidence that the RXR, but not RAR, may be involved, and that intracellular calcium concentrations decrease upon RAexposure with a time course, dose-dependency and isomer-dependency that coincide with the RA-induced electrophysiological changes. Taken together, these studies provide important evidence highlighting RA as a multifunctional molecule, inducing morphological, molecular and electrophysiological changes within the CNS, and highlight the many pathways through which RA may operate to elicit its effects.
    • Identification of novel retinoid receptors and their roles in vertebrate and invertebrate nervous systems

      Charter, Christopher J; Department of Biological Sciences (2012-07-30)
      In vertebrates, signaling by retinoic acid (RA) is known to play an important role in embryonic development, as well as organ homeostasis in the adult. In organisms such as adult axolotls and newts, RA is also important for regeneration of the CNS, limb, tail, and many other organ systems. RA mediates many of its effects in development and regeneration through nuclear receptors, known as retinoic acid receptors (RARs) and retinoid X receptors (RXRs). This study provides evidence for an important role of the RA receptor, RAR~2, in ,( '. regeneration ofthe spinal cord and tail of the adult newt. It has previously been proposed that the ability of the nervous system to regenerate might depend on the presence or absence of this RAR~2 isoform. Here, I show for the very first time, that the regenerating spinal cord of the adult newt expresses this ~2 receptor isoform, and inhibition of retinoid signaling through this specific receptor with a selective antagonist inhibits tail and spinal cord regeneration. This provides the first evidence for a role of this receptor in this process. Another species capable of CNS ~~generation in the adult is the invertebrate, " Lymnaea stagnalis. Although RA has been detected in a small number of invertebrates (including Lymnaea), the existence and functional roles of the retinoid receptors in most invertebrate non-chordates, have not been previously studied. It has been widely believed, however, that invertebrate non-chordates only possess the RXR class of retinoid receptors, but not the RARs. In this study, a full-length RXR cDNA has been cloned, which was the first retinoid receptor to be discovered in Lymnaea. I then went on to clone the very first full-length RAR eDNA from any non-chordate, invertebrate species. The functional role of these receptors was examined, and it was shown that normal molluscan development was altered, to varying degrees, by the presence of various RXR and RAR agonists or antagonists. The resulting disruptions in embryogenesis ranged from eye and shell defects, to complete lysis of the early embryo. These studies strongly suggest an important role for both the RXR and RAR in non-chordate development. The molluscan RXR and RAR were also shown to be expressed in the adult, nonregenerating eNS, as well as in individual motor neurons regenerating in culture. More specifically, their expression displayed a non-nuclear distfibution, suggesting a possible non-genomic role for these 'nuclear' receptors. It was shown that immunoreactivity for the RXR was present in almost all regenerating growth cones, and (together with N. Farrar) it was shown that this RXR played a novel, non-genomic role in mediating growth cone turning toward retinoic acid. Immunoreactivity for the novel invertebrate RAR was also found in the regenerating growth cones, but future work will be required to determine its functional role in nerve cell regeneration. Taken together, these data provide evidence for the importance of these novel '. retinoid receptors in development and regeneration, particularly in the adult nervous system, and the conservation of their effects in mediating RA signaling from invertebrates to vertebrates.
    • Impact of different irrigation strategies on grapes and wine quality of four grapevine cultivars (Vitis sp.) in cool climate conditions. An investigation into the relationships among ABA, water status, grape cultivar and wine quality

      Balint, Gabriel; Department of Biological Sciences (2012-04-04)
      Niagara Peninsula of Ontario is the largest viticultural area in Canada. Although it is considered to be a cool and wet region, in the last decade many water stress events occurred during the growing seasons with negative effects on grape and wine quality. This study was initiated to understand and develop the best strategies for water management in vineyards and those that might contribute to grape maturity advancement. The irrigation trials investigated the impact of time of initiation (fruit set, lag phase and veraison), water replacement level based on theoretical loss through crop evapotranspiration (ETc; 100,50 and 25%) and different irrigation strategies [partial root zone drying (PRD) versus regulated deficit irrigation (RD!)] on grape composition and wine sensory profiles. The irrigation experiments were conducted in a commercial vineyard (Lambert Vineyards Inc.) located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, from 2005 through 2009. The two experiments that tested the combination of different water regimes and irrigation time initiation were set up in a randomized block design as follows: Baco noir - three replicates x 10 treatments [(25%, 50% and 100% of ETc) x (initiation at fruit set, lag phase and veraison) + control]; Chardonnay - three replicates x seven treatments [(25%, 50% and 100% of ETc) x (initiation at fruit set and veraison) + control]. The experiments that tested different irrigation strategies were set up on two cultivars as follows: Sauvignon blanc - four replicates x four treatments [control, fully irrigated (100% ETc), PRD (100% ETc) and RDI (25% ETc)]; Cabemet Sauvignon - four replicates x five treatments [control, fully irrigated (100% ETc), PRD (100% ETc), RDI (50% ETc) and RDI (25% ETc)]. The controls in each experiment were nonirrigated. The irrigation treatments were compared for many variables related to soil water status, vine physiology, berry composition, wine sensory profile, and hormone composition [(abscisic acid (ABA) and its catabolites]. Soil moisture profile was mostly affected by irrigation treatments between 20 and 60 em depth depending on the grapevine cultivar and the regime of water applied. Overall soil moisture was consistently higher throughout the season in 100 and 50% ETc compare to the control. Transpiration rates and leaf temperature as well as shoot growth rate were the most sensitive variables to soil water status. Drip irrigation associated with RDI treatments (50% ETc and 25% ETc) had the most beneficial effects on vine physiology, fruit composition and wine varietal typicity, mainly by maintaining a balance between vegetative and reproductive parts of the vine. Neither the control nor the 100 ETc had overall a positive effect on grape composition and wine sensory typicity. The time of irrigation initiation affected the vine physiology and grape quality, the most positive effect was found in treatments initiated at lag phase and veraison. RDI treatments were overall more consistent in their positive effect on grape composition and wine varietal typicity comparing to PRD treatment. The greatest difference between non-irrigated and irrigated vines in most of the variables studied was found in 2007, the driest and hottest season of the experimental period. Soil water status had a greater and more consistent effect on red grapevine cultivars rather than on white winegrape cultivars. To understand the relationships among soil and plant water status, plant physiology and the hormonal profiles associated with it, abscisic acid (ABA) and its catabolites [phaseic acid (PA), dihydrophaseic acid (DPA), 7-hydroxy-ABA (TOH-ABA), 8' -hydroxy-ABA, neophaseic acid and abscisic acid glucose ester (ABA-GE)] were analyzed in leaves and berries from the Baco noir and Chardonnay irrigation trials over two growing seasons. ABA and some of its catabolites accurately described the water status in the vines. Endogenous ABA and some of its catabolites were strongly affected in Baco noir and Chardonnay by both the water regime (i.e. ET level) and timing of irrigation initiation. Chardonnay grapevines produced less ABA in both leaves and berries compared to Baco noir, which indicated that ABA synthesis is also cultivar dependant. ABA-GE was the main catabolite in treatments with high water deficits, while PA and DPA were higher in treatments with high water status, suggesting that the vine produced more ABA-GE under water deficits to maintain rapid control of the stomata. These differences between irrigation treatments with respect to ABA and catabolites were particularly noticeable in the dry 2007 season. Two trials using exogenous ABA investigated the effect of different concentrations of ABA and organs targeted for spraying, on grape maturation and berry composition of Cabemet Sauvignon grapevines, in two cool and wet seasons (2008-2009). The fIrst experiment consisted of three replicates x three treatments [(150 and 300 mg/L, both applications only on clusters) + untreated control] while the second experiment consisted in three replicates x four treatments [(full canopy, only clusters, and only leaves sprayed with 300 ppm ABA) + untreated control]. Exogenous ABA was effective in hastening veraison, and improving the composition of Cabemet Sauvignon. Ability of ABA to control the timing of grape berry maturation was dependant on both solution concentration and the target organ. ABA affected not only fruit composition but also yield components. Berries treated with ABA had lower weight and higher skin dry mass, which constitutes qualitative aspects desired in the wine grapes. Temporal advancement of ripening through hormonal control can lead to earlier fruit maturation, which is a distinct advantage in cooler areas or areas with a high risk of early frost occurrence. Exogenous ABA could provide considerable benefits to wine industry in terms of grape composition, wine style and schedule activities in the winery, particularly in wet and cool years. These trials provide the ftrst comprehensive data in eastern North America on the response of important hybrid and Vitis vinifera winegrape cultivars to irrigation management. Results from this study additionally might be a forward step in understanding the ABA metabolism, and its relationship with water status. Future research should be focused on ftnding the ABA threshold required to trigger the ripening process, and how this process could be controlled in cool climates.
    • Influence of adolescent social instability stress on the intake of ethanol and sucrose in a rodent model

      de Lima Marcolin, Marina; Department of Biological Sciences
      Adolescence is a sensitive period in which the effects of stress and alcohol can have long-lasting impacts. Social instability stress in adolescent rats (SS; postnatal day 30-45, daily 1 hour isolation + new cage partner) alters behavioural responses to psychostimulants and increases anxiety-like behaviour, but differences in voluntary consumption of natural and drug rewards are unknown. The main goal of my thesis was to investigate the effects of adolescent social instability stress (SS) on immediate and long-lasting changes on reward-related behaviours in male rats using voluntary alcohol intake paradigms. Another goal was to investigate the influence of social context on the propensity to drink alcohol, as well as the influence of these factors on sucrose intake. In chapter 2, I found that adolescent SS increased alcohol intake irrespective of social context, and adolescents drank more alcohol than adults. The intake of sucrose was not altered by stress, except during context of competition. In chapter 3, I found that history of alcohol drinking reduced synaptic plasticity markers in the dorsal hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, and this reduction was sometimes further reduced by SS. The propensity to drink alcohol was found not to differ between SS and CTL rats in the first experiment, and reduced among SS rats in the second experiment. After nine days of alcohol absence, the propensity to drink alcohol was not increased by previous alcohol access, and SS increased intake only in alcohol-naïve rats. History of alcohol drinking reduced anxiety-like behaviours and blunted SS-induced reduction in social interactions. Both SS and alcohol decreased corticosterone levels at baseline and after fear recall without changing freezing behaviour. My findings indicate that using a model of mild social stressor can have great impact on adolescent rats, but moderate effects in adult rats. The behavioural changes caused by stress can be enhanced later in life by history of alcohol drinking, but that does not necessarily cause an increase in the propensity to drink during adulthood, as other studies have shown. Adolescent stressed rats drink more alcohol than other groups, but they don’t seem to continue drinking more when they reach adulthood. These results indicate that the effects of social instability stress are transient in regards to propensity to drink, and can be the basis for alterations caused by both alcohol and stress.
    • Intracellular antioxidant and DNA repair enzymes as correlates of stress resistance and longevity in vertebrates

      Page, Melissa Maire; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 2011-10-14)
      In animals, both stress resistance and longevity appear to be influenced by the insulin/insulin-like growth factor-l signaling (lIS) pathway, the basic organization of which is highly conserved from invertebrates to vertebrates. Reduced lIS or genetic disruption of the lIS pathway leads to the activation of forkhead box transcription factors, which is thought to upregulate the expression of genes involved in enhancing stress resistance, including perhaps key antioxidant enzymes as well as DNA repair enzymes. Enhanced antioxidant and DNA repair capacities may underlie the enhanced cellular stress resistance observed in long-lived animals, however little data is available that directly supports this idea. I used three. experimental approaches to test the association of intracellular antioxidant and DNA base excision repair (BER) capacities with stress resistance and longevity: (1) a comparison of multiple vertebrate endotherm species of varying body masses and longevities; (2) a comparison of long-lived Snell dwarf mice and their normallittermates; and (3) a comparison of hypometabolic animals undergoing hibernation or estivation with their active counterparts. The activities of the five major intracellular antioxidant enzymes as well as the two rate-limiting enzymes in the BER pathway, apurininc/apyrimidinic (AP) endonuclease and polymerase ~, were measured. These measurements were performed in one or more of the following: (1) cultured dermal fibroblasts; (2) brain tissue; (3) heart tissue; (4) liver tissue. My results indicate that antioxidant enzymes are not universally upregulated in association with enhanced stress resistance and longevity. I also did not find that BER enzyme activity was positively correlated with longevity, in an inter-species context, though there was evidence for enhanced BER in long-lived Snell dwarf mice. Thus, while there were instances in which enhanced antioxidant and BER enzyme activities were associated with increased stress resistance and/or longevity, this was not universally the case, indicating that other mechanisms must be involved. These results suggest the need to re-examine existing 'oxidative stress' hypotheses of longevity and probe further into the molecular physiology of longevity to discover its mechanistic basis.
    • Investigating the role of apoptosis regulator EndoG on exogenous DNA uptake, stability, replication and recombination

      Misic, Vanja; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 2013-11-05)
      Endonuclease G (EndoG) is a well conserved mitochondrial nuclease with dual lethal and vital roles in the cell. It non-specifically cleaves endogenous DNA following apoptosis induction, but is also active in non-apoptotic cells for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) replication and may also be important for replication, repair and recombination of genomic DNA. The aim of our study was to examine whether EndoG exerts similar activities on exogenous DNA substrates such as plasmid DNA (pDNA) and viral DNA vectors, considering their importance in gene therapy applications. The effects of EndoG knockdown on pDNA stability and levels of encoded reporter gene expression were evaluated in the cervical carcinoma HeLa cells. Transfection of pDNA vectors encoding short-hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) reduced levels of EndoG mRNA and nuclease activity in HeLa cells. In physiological circumstances, EndoG knockdown did not have an effect on the stability of pDNA or the levels of encoded transgene expression as measured over a four day time-course. However, when endogenous expression of EndoG was induced by an extrinsic stimulus (a cationic liposome transfection reagent), targeting of EndoG by shRNA improved the perceived stability and transgene expression of pDNA vectors. Therefore, EndoG is not a mediator of exogenous DNA clearance, but in non-physiological circumstances it may non-specifically cleave intracellular DNA regardless of its origin. To investigate possible effects of EndoG on viral DNA vectors, we constructed and evaluated AdsiEndoG, a first generation adenovirus (Ad5 ΔE1) vector encoding a shRNA directed against EndoG mRNA, along with appropriate Ad5 ΔE1 controls. Infection of HeLa cells with AdsiEndoG at a multiplicity of infection (MOI) of 10 p.f.u./cell resulted in an early cell proliferation defect, absent from cells infected at equivalent MOI with control Ad5 ΔE1 vectors. Replication of Ad5 ΔE1 DNA was detected for all vectors, but AdsiEndoG DNA accumulated to levels that were 50 fold higher than initially, four days after infection, compared to 14 fold for the next highest control Ad5 ΔE1 vector. Deregulation of the cell cycle by EndoG depletion, which is characterized by an accumulation of cells in the G2/M transition, is the most likely reason for the observed cell proliferation defect. The enhanced replication of AdsiEndoG is consistent with this conclusion, as Ad5 ΔE1 DNA replication is intimately related to cell cycling and prolongation or delay in G2/M greatly enhances this process. Furthermore, infection of HeLa with AdsiEndoG at MOI of 50 p.f.u./cell resulted in an almost complete disappearance of viable, adherent tumour cells from culture, whereas almost a third of the cells were still adherent after infection with control Ad5 ΔE1 vectors, relative to the non-infected control. Therefore, targeting of EndoG by RNAi is a viable strategy for improving the oncolytic properties of first generation adenovirus vectors. In addition, AdsiEndoG-mediated knockdown of EndoG reduced homologous recombination between pDNA substrates in HeLa cells. The effect was modest but, nevertheless demonstrated that the proposed role of EndoG in homologous recombination of cellular DNA also extends to exogenous DNA substrates.
    • Investigating the Role of MicroRNAs in Regeneration and Axonal Pathfinding

      Walker, Sarah; Department of Biological Sciences
      During both development and regeneration, axons must navigate through a complex and changing environment to reach their proper synaptic target. To do so, axons utilize a specialized structure, the growth cone, which senses and interprets guidance cues in its surrounding environment to change the direction of axonal outgrowth. MicroRNAs, which regulate mRNA translation, have recently been shown to regulate both neurite outgrowth and growth cone guidance in response to classical guidance cues during vertebrate development. However, little is known of their regulation of neuronal regeneration in an invertebrate. Thus, the main aim of this thesis was to study the role of microRNAs during CNS regeneration of the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. Specifically, I determined the expression patterns and relative abundance of microRNAs in the regenerating CNS in response to retinoic acid (RA). Using miRNA-Sequencing, I identified one neuronally enriched microRNA, miR-124, that was up-regulated in RA-induced regenerating CNS. Using PCR and in situ hybridization, I characterized its distribution in the snail CNS, and discovered it shared similar expression patterns to that of vertebrates. In cell culture, I found miR-124 was abundant within regenerating motorneurons and was localized to their growth cones. I next determined that miR-124 contributed to RA-induced growth cone turning behaviour. During attractive growth cone turning to RA, the abundance and distribution of miR-124 was altered, in both a cue and context-dependent manner. Finally, I demonstrated that miR-124 targeted the Rho kinase, ROCK, during turning responses to RA, likely to promote the formation of a neurite shaft, or to maintain growth cone polarity. Together, these findings provide the first evidence for a role of microRNAs in mediating growth cone behaviours to RA in regenerating motorneurons.
    • Investigating the role of retinoic acid in the vertebrate and invertebrate nervous system

      Dmetrichuk, Jennifer M.; Department of Biological Sciences (2012-12-13)
      Although abundant in the developing central nervous system (CNS) of vertebrates, the precise roll of all-trans retinoic acid (RA) is neuronal development and regeneration is undetermined. This study suggests that all-trans RA acts via its RAR Beta receptor to stimulate neurite outgrowth from adult newt spinal cord explants, and may represent an important chemotropic molecule for nerve dependent limb regeneration. All-trans RA's effects are not limited to the vertebrate species, as it was found that all-trans RA induces neurite outgrowth and retains electrical excitability in isolated adult molluscan invertebrate neurons. Using analytical chemistry techniques, both all-trans RA and its isoform, 9-cis RA, were identified in the invertebrate CNS. 9-cis RA showed a similar neurotrophic role to that of all-trans RA on cultured molluscan neurons. Further, all-trans and 9-cis RA were capable of inducing growth cone chemoattraction. This occurred in the absence of the neuronal cell body, unlike the growth promoting and increased survival effects of all-trans RA, suggesting a novel signaling mechanism for all-trans RA in the invertebrate and vertebrate species. Investigating the factors involved in promoting neurite outgrowth may ultimately aid in designing strategies to prevent nerve degeneration and developing approaches to support axonal regeneration in humans.
    • METHOXYPYRAZINES AND LADYBUG TAINT IN WINES

      Botezatu, Andreea Ioana; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 2013-11-05)
      Methoxypyrazines are aroma active compounds found in many wine varietals. These compounds can be of either grape-derived nature or can be introduced into wines via Coccinellidae beetles. Regardless of their origin, methoxypyrazines can have either a beneficial role for wine quality, contributing to the specificity of certain wine varietals (Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Sauvignon blanc) or a detrimental role, particularly at higher concentrations, resulting in overpowering green, unripe and herbaceous notes. When methoxypyrazines of exogenous nature are responsible for these unpleasant characteristics, wines are considered to be affected by what is generally known as Ladybug taint (LBT). This is work is a collection of studies seeking to create a sensitive analytical method for the detection and quantification of methoxypyrazines in wines; to investigate the role of different Coccinellidae species in the tainting of wines with LBT and identify the main compounds in ladybug tainted wines responsible for the typical green herbaceous characteristics; to determine the human detection threshold of 2,5-dimethyl-3-methoxypyrazine in wines as well as investigate its contribution to the aroma of wines; and finally to survey methoxypyrazine concentrations in a large set of wines from around the world. In the first study, an analytical method for the detection and quantitation of methoxypyrazines in wines was created and validated. The method employs multidimensional Gas Chromatography coupled with Mass Spectrometry to detect four different methoxypyrazines (2,5-dimethyl-3-methoxypyrazine, isobutyl methoxypyrazine, secbutyl methoxypyrazine and isopropyl methoxypyrazines) in wine. The low limits of detection for the compounds of interest, improved separation and isolation capabilities, good validation data, as well as the ease of use recommend this method as a good alternative to the existing analytical methods for methoxypyrazine detection in wine. In the second study the capacity of two Coccinellidae species, found in many wine regions – Harmonia axyridis and Coccinella septempunctata - to taint wines is evaluated. Coccinella septempunctata is shown to be as capable as causing LBT in wines as Harmonia axyridis. Dimethyl methoxypyrazine, previously thought to be of exogenous nature only (from Coccinellidae haemolymph), is also detected in control (untainted) wines. The main odor active compounds in LBT wines are investigated through Aroma Extract Dilution Assay. These compounds are identified as isopropyl methoxypyrazine, sec- and iso- butyl methoxypyrazine. In the third study, the human detection threshold for dimethyl methoxypyrazine in wine is established to be 31 ng/L in the orthonasal modality and 70 ng/L retronasally. After wines spiked with various amounts of dimethyl methoxypyrazine are evaluated sensorally, dimethyl methoxypyrazine causes significant detrimental effects to wine aroma at a concentration of 120 ng/L. The final study examines methoxypyrazine (dimethyl methoxypyrazine, isopropyl methoxypyrazine, secbutyl methoxypyrazine and isobutyl methoxypyrazine) concentrations in 187 wines from around the world. Dimethyl methoxypyrazine is detected in the majority of the red wines tested. Data are interpreted through statistical analyses. A new measure for predicting greenness/herbaceousness in wines - methoxypyrazine “total impact factor” is proposed.
    • Molecular ecology and social evolution of the eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica

      Vickruck, Jessica L; Department of Biological Sciences
      Bees are extremely valuable models in both ecology and evolutionary biology. Their link to agriculture and sensitivity to climate change make them an excellent group to examine how anthropogenic disturbance can affect how genes flow through populations. In addition, many bees demonstrate behavioural flexibility, making certain species valuable models with which to study the evolution of social groups. This thesis studies the molecular ecology and social evolution of one such bee, the eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica. As a generalist native pollinator that nests almost exclusively in milled lumber, anthropogenic disturbance and climate change have the power to drastically alter how genes flow through eastern carpenter bee populations. In addition, X. virginica is facultatively social and is an excellent organism to examine how species evolve from solitary to group living. Across their range of eastern North America, X. virginica appears to be structured into three main subpopulations: a northern group, a western group and a core group. Population genetic analyses suggest that the northern and potentially the western group represent recent range expansions. Climate data also suggest that summer and winter temperatures describe a significant amount of the genetic differentiation seen across their range. Taken together, this suggests that climate warming may have allowed eastern carpenter bees to expand their range northward. Despite nesting predominantly in disturbed areas, eastern carpenter bees have adapted to newly available habitat and appear to be thriving. This is in marked contrast to many other bee species, particularly in the genus Bombus, who appear unable to shift their ranges along with climate change. Facultatively social organisms are interesting species to study the evolution of social groups, and the remaining chapters address questions of sociality in X. virginica. I used observation nests and genetic relatedness to examined how females behave towards one another in the spring prior to the establishment of dominance hierarchies in social nests. In spring, females directed fewer aggressive behaviours and more cooperative behaviours towards familiar rather than related individuals, indicating that females use nestmate recognition rather that kin recognition when interacting with conspecifics. Overwintering groups often contain both related and unrelated individuals, indicating that many bees interacting with one another in the fall prior to overwintering may be unrelated, emphasizing the importance of recognizing nestmates. Within social carpenter bee nests three different types of female have been described: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary females are the dominant foragers and egg layers in the nest while secondary and tertiary females appear to join a reproductive queue behind the primary. To understand the nature and flexibility of this reproductive queue I performed removal experiments across three different years. This study showed that secondary females always assumed the role of replacement primary, while tertiary females rarely opted to forage and reproduce even if they were the only female in the nest. Removal experiments demonstrated that social groups in X. virginica are complex and comprise two different reproductive strategies (breed in the current year or delay reproduction) as well as form dominance hierarchies among primary and secondary females. Several tertiary females were able to become primary or solitary females in their second summer, providing evidence for how each type of female may have evolved in social nests. Finally, I examined how competition influences the evolution and maintenance of social groups in eastern carpenter bees. In conditions of high population density significantly more social nests were present in the population, indicating that competition for limiting nesting resources drives individuals together into social groups. Within social groups relatedness was low, and siblings actually dispersed away from one another to other nests in the population, reducing competition among kin. Eastern carpenter bees appear to demonstrate an interesting evolutionary route to sociality, where very high levels of competition among kin lead to dispersal, while limited nesting substrate forces individuals back into unrelated social groups. While predicted by kin selection, social groups of this nature are previously undescribed in the Hymenoptera, and further study of eastern carpenter bees can provide novel insights into alternate routes to sociality.
    • Phage-mediated biological control of Erwinia amylovora: The role of CRISPRs and exopolysaccharide

      Yagubi, Abdelbaset; Department of Biological Sciences
      Fire blight, caused by bacterium Erwinia amylovora, is a very serious disease affecting apple, pear and other fruit plants. The development of phage-based biopesticides is currently in progress in our lab. Emergence of phage-resistant bacteria is a valid concern. Two attributes of the bacterial host that may contribute to the development of resistance were studied, the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/ CRISPR-associated (CRISPR/Cas) system and exopolysaccharide (EPS) interaction with phages. The structure of E. amylovora CRISPR/Cas system was determined in 8 E. amylovora isolates from different geographical regions. Three CRISPR-array sets named CR1, CR2 and CR3 were detected in 4 isolates, and only 2 arrays were determined in the rest of the isolates. No significant similarity was found between spacers in any of these systems to phage DNA sequenced in this study or from GenBank. Also the Cas level of expression was not stimulated during phage infection. Introduction of extra copies of Cas genes to enhance expression did not result in phage resistance. Nevertheless, E. amylovora CRISPR/Cas system was found to be efficient in blocking the transformation of plasmids carrying protospacers matched spacers in CRR1 and CRR2. Among phages that have been sequenced in this study are ΦEa9-2 and ΦEa35-70. ΦEa9-2 (Podoviridae) genome is 75,568 bp, and found to be related to coliphage N4. ΦEa35-70 (Myoviridae) genome is 271,084 bp, and found to carry a potential EPS depolymerase gene. Activity of ΦEa35-70 EPS depolymerase was only detected when cloned and expressed in E. coli, but His-tagged purified protein did not exhibit any EPS-depolymerase activities. This study offers critical information for the design of novel and effective phage-based biopesticides for the control of E. amylovora. It provides a new knowledge on the molecular structure and function of CRISPR/Cas system and EPS-phage interaction.
    • Proximate influence on eusocial caste behaviour

      Awde, David N; Department of Biological Sciences
      Queens and workers of eusocial sweat bee species are morphologically and developmentally similar, which means that each female is capable of behaving as a queen or a worker. However, few females lay eggs and behave as queens, while the majority of females provision the queen’s offspring, rarely lay eggs, and behave as workers. This makes eusocial sweat bee species, such as Lasioglossum laevissimum, excellent models to study the underling environmental (social) and genetic factors that contribute to variation in caste behaviours. My research focused on describing some of the proximate mechanisms that influence caste behaviours in L. laevissimum females. The social environment of a sweat bee colony, specifically the behaviour of a queen, can have a dramatic impact on worker behaviour. Queens suppress worker reproduction by physically bullying their workers. In a nesting aggregation at Brock University, almost half of L. laevissimum nests became queenless, which provided me with a natural experiment to assess the direct influence by queens on worker behaviour. Dissection data showed that a small proportion (17%) of workers developed their ovaries in both queenright and queenless nests. This suggests that L. laevissimum queens exert an early, negative, and strong influence on worker egg-laying behaviour, which lasts after she is gone. Next I assessed the relationship between gene expression and L. laeivsismum caste behaviours. I predicited that queens would express a gene associated with egg-laying, vitellogenin, more than workers, and that workers would express genes associated with foraging, the foraging gene, more than queens. Lasioglossum laevissimum queens had higher vitellogenin expression levels than workers, and females with high ovarian development had high vitellogenin expression, regardless of caste. On the other hand, queens and workers had similar foraging expression levels. Gene expression comparisons between queens and workers highlight two important behavioural characteristics of sweat bee castes. First, in eusocial sweat bees, both queens and workers actively provision brood at some point during the breeding season, which is reflected in their similar foraging expression levels. Secondly, queens lay eggs while a small proportion of workers have queen-like ovarian development, reflected in vitellogenin expression differences between castes.
    • Responses to Reflection in Two Invertebrate Species

      May, Holly; Department of Biological Sciences
      The present thesis investigates the responses to reflection in both the crayfish Procambarus clarkii and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Responses to reflection in crayfish depend on social status and the current work suggests that learning and memory consolidation are required for these responses to be altered. Crayfish were treated to either massed or spaced training fights prior to reflection testing. The results show that subordinate crayfish treated to spaced training display a response typical of subordinate crayfish but subordinate crayfish treated to massed training exhibit a response typical of dominant crayfish. Fruit flies are shown to be attracted to reflection and responses to reflection are described here for the first time. Responses in fruit flies are shown to be dependent on social status. The frequency of behaviours were altered in isolated flies but not socialized flies. The addition of pheromones cVA and 7,11-HD were used to investigate how the addition of chemical cues altered responses to reflection in fruit flies. Socialized fruit flies treated with cVA exhibited an increase in the frequency of behaviours on both mirrored and clear glass walls, while isolated flies exhibited a decrease. Socialized flies treated with 7,11-HD spent more time on mirrored walls compared to glass walls, whereas the frequency of all behaviours were decreased in isolated flies treated with 7,11-HD.
    • The role of microRNAs and retinoid signaling during spinal cord regeneration in the adult newt.

      Lepp, Amanda; Department of Biological Sciences
      The molecular events after spinal cord injury that lead to the establishment of a permissive environment and epimorphic regeneration remain unclear. Two molecular pathway regulators that may converge to create a spinal cord regeneration-permissive environment in the urodele are retinoic acid (RA) and microRNAs (miRNAs). Recent evidence suggests that RARβ-mediated signaling is necessary for tail and caudal spinal cord regeneration in the adult newt. MicroRNAs are attractive candidates as mediators of retinoid signaling during regeneration, as their pleiotropic effects are vital in situations where global changes in gene expression are required. Thus, the overall aim of this thesis was to determine if miRNAs are involved in tail and caudal spinal cord regeneration in the adult newt, and if they act as regulators and/or effectors of retinoid signaling during this process. I have demonstrated here, for the first time, that multiple miRNAs are dysregulated in response to spinal cord injury in the adult newt, as well as in response to inhibition of retinoid signaling. Two of these miRNAs, miR-133a and miR-1, appear to target RARβ2 transcripts both in vivo and in vitro. Inhibition of RA signaling via RARβ with a selective antagonist, LE135, alters the pattern of expression of these miRNAs, which leads to an inhibition of tail regeneration. These data are indicative of a negative feed back loop, albeit potentially an indirect one. I also aimed to examine which miRNAs are affected by inhibiting RA synthesis during regeneration, and provided a long list of miRNAs that are dysregulated. These data provide the foundation for future studies on the putative roles of these miRNAs, as well as their function in retinoid signaling. Overall, these studies provide the first evidence for a role for miRNAs as mediators of retinoid signaling during caudal spinal cord regeneration in any system.
    • The role of mobile elements in recent primate genomes

      Tang, Wanxiangfu; Department of Biological Sciences
      Mobile elements (MEs), which constitute ~50% of the primate genomes, have contributed to both genome evolution and gene function as demonstrated by ample evidence discovered over the last few decades. The three studies in this thesis aims to provide a better understanding of the evolutionary profile and function of MEs in the primate genomes by taking a computational comparative genomics approach. The first study represents a comprehensive analysis of the differential ME transposition among primates via identification of species-specific MEs (SS-MEs) in eight primate genomes from the families of Hominidae and Cercopithecidae using a comparative genomics approach. In total, 230,855 SS-MEs are identified, which reveal striking differences in retrotransposition level in the eight primate genomes. The second study represents a more focused analysis for the identification of a new type of MEs, which we term “retro-DNA” for non-LTR retrotransposons derived from DNA transposons, in the recent primate genomes. By investigating biallelic DNA transposons that have both the insertion and pre-integration alleles in ten primate genomes, a total of 1,750 retro-DNA elements representing 750 unique insertion events are reported for the first time. The third study provides an analysis of the mechanism underlying the differential SINE transposition in the primate genomes. In this study, Alu profiles are compared and the Alu master copies are identified in six primate genomes in the Hominidae and Cercopithecidae groups. The results show that each lineage of the primates and each species owns a unique Alu profile exclusively defined by the AluY transposition activity, which is determined by the number of Alu master copies and their relative activity. Overall, work in this thesis provides new insights about MEs and their impact on the recent primate genomes by revealing differential ME transposition as an important mechanism in generating genome diversity among primate lineages and species through discovering a new type of MEs and preliminary analysis of the mechanism underlying the differential ME transposition among primates. Furthermore, taking advantage of the recently available primate genomes and transcriptomes data, the work in this thesis demonstrates the great potential of the comparative genomic approach in studying MEs in primate genomes.