Regan Griffin
Griffin, Regan
Year: 2022
Faculty Advisor: Andrew Nelson

“Investigating the functional role of long non-coding RNA in seed germination and seedling development”

Project Summary:

Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are genes found in all eukaryotes that do not encode a protein and are emerging transcriptional regulators. Research into lncRNAs only recently began and a vast majority of them have not been studied or characterized. The Nelson lab recently identified and characterized the sequence and expression characteristics of thousands of lncRNAs in the plant family Brassicaceae, which includes Arabidopsis thaliana and Brassica rapa. From this study, multiple lncRNA candidates of interest were identified due to their high levels of expression during seed germination and seedling development, as well as their elevated levels of nucleotide conservation.  In order to investigate the biological role of each candidate lncRNA, we characterized Arabidopsis thaliana plants with a mutated lncRNA gene. We started by ensuring that our lncRNA candidates were homozygous for the mutation at the lncRNA locus. This was performed by extracting DNA from the mutant plants, performing polymerase chain reaction of the mutated gene, and visualizing the results using gel electrophoresis. Next, we quantified the developmental progress of our mutant plants through germination and early development as they are lncRNAs expressed during these stages. We observed delayed germination rates in mutant seeds and shorter roots in mutant seedlings that were mutated in our lncRNA candidates when compared to wildtype plants. Future experiments will determine what molecular roles these candidate lncRNAs play during early development. From this information, we can conclude that these candidate lncRNAs play a functional role in seed germination and seedling development.

My Experience:

This PGRP intern experience has been incredible. The opportunity to work and interact in a lab setting with graduate students and postdocs has been invaluable and has given me so many resources and connections with people I otherwise would not have met. The weekly seminars and the ability to acquire a social mentor served to further broaden my network. The various events and courses offered to us were extremely beneficial as well and helped me to gain a greater understanding of what graduate school programs and jobs are seeking in individuals. The benchwork and computational skills I have gained in these ten short weeks will benefit me in my future endeavors. This summer has made me more confident in my abilities and has made me think more in-depth about pursuing graduate school. I could not be more grateful for this experience and look forward to what the future holds.