The effects of natural and artificial flavors on the membrane integrity of Tetrahymena thermophila

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Nelson, Carrie
Tekverk, Amy
Otto-Hitt, Stefanie
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The effects of natural and artificial flavors on the membrane integrity of Tetrahymena thermophila
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In recent years, food companies have been promoting the use of natural flavorings, as opposed to artificial ones, given consumer perception that ‘natural’ means ‘healthy’. Despite this change, the criteria established by the Food and Drug Administration for what constitutes a natural flavoring lacks clarity. In fact, natural flavorings have been shown to cause severe health issues, such as with natural butter flavoring, which can cause bronchiolitis obliterans (aka “popcorn lung”). To better understand how artificial and natural butter flavorings impact the plasma membrane, the model organism Tetrahymena thermophila was used to mimic the gas exchange process within human lung tissue. For this study, we hypothesized that exposure to these flavorings would alter expression of the YMR210W gene, which plays a role and lipid synthesis, and the FLP1 gene, which encodes a flippase protein that moves phospholipids within the membrane. Furthermore, we hypothesized that both butter flavorings would impact motility, cell signaling, cell growth, and feeding ability. To test our hypothesis, T. thermophila were cultured in media with or without flavoring for 48 hours. During the exposure period, feeding ability and cell growth were measured, while at the end of the exposure period, cell motility was measured, along with expression of YMR210W and FLP1 via RT-qPCR. We predicted that the artificial and natural butter flavorings would increase expression of YMR210W, decrease expression of FLP1, and subsequently decrease feeding, growth, and motility due to the negative impact these flavorings have on the integrity of the plasma membrane in T. thermophila.
Degree Awarded
Biochemistry-Molecular Biology