Graduate STEM Fellow Profile

Sean Caonguyen

Project Title: IMPACT LA: Improving Minority Partnerships and Access through CISE-related Teaching
Thesis: Identifying the Functional Orthologs of Lipid Transfer Proteins (LTPs) for Developmental Regulation in Flowering Plants
College/University: California State University, Los Angeles
Research Advisor: Felicia Burt
Degree Sought: Masters in Chemistry (Biochemistry option)
Department: Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Research Focus: My research focuses predominantly on studying the biochemical, signaling, and genetic changes in flowering plant leaves for life
Teaching Partner(s): Felicia Burt

Description of Research

During the floral transition in Arabidopsis, 13-HOO-FA, a possible lipid hydroperoxide precursor for signaling molecules, increases in leaves due to lipoxygenase activity. Results have shown the up-regulation of two lipid transfer protein (LTP) genes, AtLTPf1 and AtLTPf2, at the floral transition. LTPs may act as signal carriers that transfer lipids, like oxylipins, between cells for developmental events. The purpose of this experiment is to locate orthologs of AtLTPf1 and AtLTPf2 from Arabidopsis (a dicot) in rice (a monocot) using bioinformatics coupled with expression pattern analyses. Our phylogenetic trees show LTP homologs, and we hypothesize that the most closely related genes, OsLTPf1 and OsLTPf2 from rice, mirror AtLTPf1 and AtLTPf2 expression, respectively. Through a comparison of various tissues at different stages of development in both plant species, our data suggests that AtLTPf1 and OsLTPf1 are orthologs. Further analysis of these LTPs may clarify their function and elucidate the signaling pathways involved in floral transition and developmental regulation. These LTPs may provide targets for genetic modification to alter plant development.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience

One example integrating my research was extracting DNA from strawberries. In our lab, we often extract DNA and RNA from plant tissues to study gene expression at various stages of plant development. Working with the high school biology classes, I had the opportunity to introduce basic laboratory extraction techniques and show the students what DNA looks like when it is unwound as proteins are denatured. Through incorporating our current research techniques into the high school classes, the students were able to experience the first steps to what current scientists are doing to study DNA, the genetic code of all living organisms. As the year progresses I am planning to integrate more and more of my research project into their classroom topics and am interested in hearing the students’ ideas to improve my research.