Julian P. Smith III, Ph.D.




College of Arts and Sciences




Much is known about melatonin and its role in the circadian regulation of vertebrate organisms. However, melatonin has not been studied extensively in more primitive bilaterians. The aim of this study was to analyze the relationship between melatonin and the circadian rhythm in the organism Stenostomum virginianum. Melatonin assay methods from previous research in the field were optimized for smaller tissue sampling of microscopic metazoans. The optimized assay methodology was then used to identify melatonin in Stenostomum virginianum using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Identification of photoreceptors was used to correlate the presence of melatonin to the circadian rhythm. PAX-6 was chosen for study because it is considered the master eye regulatory gene. Immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy confirmed the presence of PAX-6 in the anterior region of S. virginianum. The next step in this project is the examination of melatonin concentration at various time points and the comparison of the fluctuation pattern to the S. virginianum sleep and reproduction cycles. Following this comparison, the next logical step is the analysis of melatonin biosynthetic enzymes. This project builds on the work of Dan Stanton and Julian P. Smith, PhD.

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