Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Sigrid Jacobshagen (Director), Dr. Claire A. Rinehart, Dr. Cheryl Davis

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


reinhardtii, a unicellular green alga, is a model organism to study the circadian clock. Cryptochromes are the blue light photoreceptors that entrain the clock in some organisms. The CPH1 protein of C. reinhardtii resembles the cryptochromes of the plant model Arabidopsis, but whether CPH1 entrains the circadian clock in C. reinhardtii is not yet known. Recent reports have suggested the existence of one more cryptochrome in C. reinhardtii, which resembles the cryptochromes of animals. However, the amino acid sequence of this protein shows even higher sequence similarity with the 6-4 DNA photolyase of Arabidopsis. DNA photolyases are involved in the repair of UV light-induced DNA damage using the energy of blue light. In order to determine, if the “animal cryptochrome” gene of C. reinhardtii actually encodes a 6-4 DNA photolyase rather than a photoreceptor, an experimental design was developed to test whether the protein product is able to rescue an E. coli mutant defective in its DNA photolyase gene. The design is as follows: In a first step, the coding region of the “animal cryptochrome” cDNA is cloned. In a second step, the cDNA is inserted in-frame into an E. coli expression vector. In a third step, the construct is transformed into an E. coli photolyase mutant, its expression induced, and the strain tested for better survival after UV light exposure. To accomplish the first step, the cloning of “animal cryptochrome” cDNA, total RNA was successfully extracted from C. reinhardtii 4 hrs into the light phase of a 12 h light/12 h dark cycle and reverse transcribed into cDNA using oligo(dT) primers. After initially unsuccessful attempts at amplifying animal cryptochrome from cDNA or genomic template with a variety of primers and conditions, a short fragment with the expected size of 186 bp was amplifiable with both templates. However, even this fragment was not reliably obtained in every PCR assay. Because of this difficulty, real-time PCR was finally performed in the presence of DMSO (Dimethylsulfoxide) and Betaine. These two adjuvants were reported to improve amplifications particularly for GC-rich templates. C. reinhardtii DNA is especially GC-rich with an average of 64% Gs and Cs. The improved conditions allowed the reliable amplification of the 186 bp fragment from genomic template. It also enabled the amplification of a larger fragment of 528 bp from the same template. The results suggest that a combination of 5% DMSO and 1M Betaine is optimal for the amplification of C. reinhardtii DNA and thus can serve as the basis for successful amplification of the entire 1788 bp coding region of the animal cryptochrome cDNA.


Biochemistry | Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology | Cell Biology | Genetics and Genomics