Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Life & Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Prof. Brandon Sheafor

Second Advisor

Patrick Judge, M.A.

Third Advisor

Dr. Grant Hokit, Ph.D.

Abstract

The North American Pika, Ochotona princeps, is a keystone high altitude species whose populations have been declining and whose distributions have been receding to higher elevations in the Great Basin. The present study proposes that these population shifts may be occurring because O. princeps are thermally stressed, as indicated by high levels of the inducible form of Heat Shock Protein 70 (HSP70). Ochotona princeps blood samples were collected from a range of elevations at different temperatures. Western Blot analysis was used as a qualitative measure to detect the presence of HSP70 in various mammalian and cell line samples to prepare for examination of O. princeps samples. Thermally treated Human Embryonic Kidney (HEK293) showed a higher expression of HSP70 than room temperature HEK293 cells. Western Blot Analysis of various mammalian tissues revealed interference in visualization of blood plasma HSP that may be attributed to similar sized protein hindrance from proteins such as albumin. Though this study does not provide tangible results on HSP70 levels across different elevations for O. princeps, it does offer useful mechanisms for studying proteins as indicators of thermal stress in mammals.

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