Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of organisms to change their phenotype in order to adapt to their environment. We attempted to isolate genes responsible for phenotypic plasticity in tadpoles of the gray tree frog, Hyla versicolor. These tadpoles exhibit phenotypic plasticity in response to predation by feeding dragonfly larvae by growing a bigger, more colorful, and higher performance tail. This change in tail morphology allows them to better survive predation.
The goal of my research was to develop a working protocol to isolate genes that were over and under expressed when Hyla versicolor tadpoles were in the presence of feeding dragonfly larvae. The protocol is based on subtractive hybridization which is used to isolate differentially expressed sets of genes from two groups of genetically similar organisms by removing or subtracting genes expressed by both groups. I used this protocol to isolate mRNA and synthesize cDNA from tadpoles that had been exposed to the feeding dragonfly larvae and tadpoles that had not been exposed to the feeding predator (control group).
Based on the results of my research, I successfully isolated total RNA, synthesized double stranded cDNA from mRNA and amplified these cDNA “genes.” This work paves the way for the next step which is to remove the common cDNA “genes” and isolate and clone the cDNAs that are expressed in tadpoles exposed to the predator.
Chris Handke, ’10 Bellevue, IA
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular, Biology
Sponsor: Craig Tepper