Year of Graduation


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Restricted Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

Patsy Dickinson

Second Advisor

Elizabeth A. Stemmler


Central pattern generators (CPGs) are neural networks that generate rhythmic motor patterns to allow organisms to perform stereotypical tasks, such as breathing, scratching, flying, and walking. The American lobster, Homarus americanus, is a simple model system whose CPGs are functionally analogous to those in vertebrate models and model complex rhythmic behaviors. CPGs in many Crustacea, including the American lobster, have been studied because of their ability to maintain biological function after isolation in physiologically relevant conditions. The cardiac ganglion (CG) is a CPG consisting of five larger motor neurons and four smaller pacemaker neurons that innervate the cardiac neuromuscular system and generate electrical bursts that drive patterned behaviors. Neuromodulators, such as neuropeptides, are known to modulate neural output in the CPGs of the American lobster. Currently, neuromodulators affecting the cardiac ganglia are thought to be mainly expressed and secreted outside of the cardiac ganglia, acting as extrinsic neuromodulators. However, there is current evidence to support the idea that neuromodulators can be intrinsically expressed within the cardiac ganglion of the American lobster. Preliminary studies using transcriptomic techniques on genomic and transcriptomic information indicate that neuropeptides are likely expressed within the cardiac ganglion. However, little research has been done to determine whether these neuropeptides are expressed in the cardiac ganglion of the American lobster. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to combine bioinformatics and mass spectrometric techniques to determine whether select neuropeptides are present in the cardiac ganglion within the cardiac neuromuscular system of the American lobster, Homarus americanus. Our data mining techniques using protein query sequences obtained from previously annotated brain and eyestalk transcriptomes resulted in the identification of 22 putative neuropeptides preprohormones from 17 neuropeptide families and 20 putative neuropeptide receptors from 17 neuropeptide receptor families in the CG transcriptome. Additionally, 9 putative neuropeptide receptors from 7 neuropeptide receptor families were detected in the cardiac muscle transcriptome. Of the 17 neuropeptide families detected, receptors for 9 of these neuropeptide families were detected in the CG transcriptome. Receptors for 6 of the neuropeptide families were also present in the cardiac muscle transcriptome. Interestingly, receptors for 6 of neuropeptide families detected were not found in either the CG or cardiac muscle transcriptomes, and receptors for 4 neuropeptide families that weren’t detected in the CG transcriptome were found in the cardiac muscle transcriptome. Therefore, our research suggests that neuropeptides are able to modulate CPG activity extrinsically, either though hormonal or local delivery, or intrinsically. Additionally, neuropeptides were extracted from the stomatogastric ganglion and the commissural ganglion using a scaled-down neuropeptide extraction protocol to estimate the number of tissues required to obtain sufficiently strong mass spectrometry signals. Pooled samples with two commissural ganglia and single samples of a commissural ganglion and a stomatogastric ganglion displayed little signal and an increase in larger peptides and impurities relative to single-tissue samples. Therefore, further optimization of the scaled-down neuropeptide extraction protocol must be done prior to analysis of a cardiac ganglion in the American lobster.


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