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Open Access Thesis

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First Advisor

Hadley Horch


Neuronal plasticity occurs in developing nervous systems, with adult organisms rarely able to recover from neurological damage. The cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus, is useful to study neuronal plasticity due to its reorganization of the auditory system in response to injury beyond development. When a cricket ear is removed and auditory afferents severed, a rare phenomenon occurs: the dendrites of interneurons on the deafferented side cross the typically-respected midline of the prothoracic ganglion to form functional synapses with auditory afferents from the opposite side. To find proteins involved in this phenomenon, the Horch Lab assembled a de novo transcriptome from neurons in the prothoracic ganglion of G. bimaculatus. Differential gene expression analysis revealed upregulated protein yellows post-deafferentation, indicating these proteins could influence neuronal plasticity in the adult cricket CNS. I focused on characterizing the protein yellow family in the cricket. By relating protein yellows evolutionarily, mapping them onto the genome, and analyzing their sequences, I discovered the cricket has 10 yellow genes, including a newly identified yellow-r* and a block of yellows showing synteny with insect genomes. Additionally, yellow-e and -x in crickets are closely related to bacterial yellow, perhaps indicating a role for horizontal gene transfer in yellow gene evolution. The protein upregulated in the cricket CNS is closely related with yellow-f’s in other insects, indicating yellow-f is likely a secreted protein, highly expressed in the CNS, multifunctional, and conserved across insects. Characterizing yellow-f can give insight into how these upregulated proteins might be related to neuronal plasticity in G. bimaculatus.

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