The marine invertebrate Botrylloides violaceus is a species of tunicate found in Morro Bay, CA with the extraordinary ability to regenerate its whole body. Furthermore, tunicates are the closest known relatives to vertebrates. Due to this organism's regenerative ability and relationship to vertebrates, it is of great interest to investigate the underlying mechanisms of regeneration and review its potential applications to related vertebrate organisms, including humans. The genome of B. violaceus was sequenced and assembled at Cal Poly, SLO which allowed for the proposed experiments to analyze gene expression, a field called transcriptomics. Transcriptomics tells us how the organism is using the genes in its genome by providing us with the data on the mRNA transcripts it produces at a given point in time. This yields functional data that may help answer our questions regarding regeneration. This proposal was a part of a larger project on this organism that involved sequencing and assembling its genome. This project was led by Dr. Elena Keeling with the collaboration of Dr. Jean Davidson, advising in transcriptomics as well as bioinformatics, and additionally with Dr. Paul Anderson, advising in computer science and bioinformatics.
The ultimate project outcomes were to establish protocols for RNA isolation and collect high quality RNA to lay the foundation for future experiments involving these techniques, conduct RNA sequencing to support the genomic data we already have and obtain sequence information on target genes involved in regeneration, and perform qPCR experiments on regenerating specimens to see how mRNA levels change over time. We completed 2/3 of these major aims.
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