Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

Patsy Dickinson


Central pattern generators (CPGs) produce patterned outputs independent of sensory input. The cardiac neuromuscular system of the American lobster (Homarus americanus) is driven by a CPG called the cardiac ganglion (CG), which is composed of nine neurons, making it a model system of study. Modulation of CPGs allows for functional flexibility. One neuropeptide family that modulates the CG is C-type allatostatin (AST-C I-III). Previous research has shown variation in the responses of the CG across the three isoforms and among individuals. First, we investigated why AST-C I and III elicit responses that are more similar to each other than they are to the responses elicited by AST-C II. We hypothesized that an amino acid difference in the conserved sequence was responsible for the observed variation in responses. We synthesized isoforms of AST-C that replaced the endogenous amino acid and recorded responses to these isoforms. The identity of one particular amino acid in the conserved sequence seems to be responsible for variations in responses in frequency. Next, we focused on variation among individuals in their responses to AST-C I and III. We hypothesized that the mechanism behind this individual variation is differential expression of AST-C receptors and/or their downstream targets. We recorded physiological responses of the cardiac system to AST-C and then sequenced CG RNA from the same lobsters. Differential expression of one of the AST-C receptors and a number of downstream factors is correlated with physiological response. These findings inspire further experimentation investigating molt cycle as the underlying cause.