Skip to body



Updates on SOLVER Scholar research projects, academic service learning projects, and internships.


Vanessa Ramirez                  

Title: Effects of the Phthalate-Free plasticizers ATBC, DOA, and GPO on Neuronal Cell Growth

and Viability

Abstract:Phthalates are plasticizers found in a variety of products such as vinyl flooring, detergents, personal care products, toys. However, phthalates have been known to be harmful to organisms specifically affecting the nervous and reproductive systems. Recently marketed phthalates-free plasticizers were designed to be non-harmful, but the effects of these phthalate-free plasticizers have not been well studied. We used a mouse neuroblastoma N2a (Neuro2a) cell line to determine the effect of the phthalate-free plasterers Acetyl tributyl citrate (ATBC), Dioctyladipate/Bis(2-ethylhexyl)adipate (DOA), and Dioctyl terephthalate/Bis(2-ethylhexyl)- 1,4-benzenedicarboxylate (GPO) on neurons. We treated N2a cells with ATBC, DOA, and GPO and used WST-8 cell counting assay to determine the number of cells present after three days of treatment. We found that treatment with ATBC (10 µM, 50 µM, 100 µM, and 200 µM) resulted in a significant decrease in the number of N2a cells (p < 0.0001). At 10 µM and 200 µM ATBC N2a cell count was 68% and 36% of control, respectively. Staining with propidium iodide suggests the cell count decrease was not due to cell death. These results suggest that cell senescence or decreased proliferation is responsible for the decreased cell count. There was not a significant cell count decrease in N2a cells treated with DOA or GPO (100µM and 200µM). This study suggests that ATBC effects neural development, while DOA and GPO have no effect. Further studies will involve testing the phthalate-free compounds for cell cycle arrest and in vivo using C. elegans as a model organism.

Awards: Outstanding Poster Presentation Award in the Molecular and Cell Biology category at the M.J. Murdock College Science Research Conference in Spokane, November 10-11, 2017

Presented at: SACNAS October 2017 and M.J. Murdock College Science Research Conference November 2017


Janie Aguilera 

Title: Effects of St. John’s wort extract on locomotory behavior in C. elegans

Abstract: Depression is a mood disorder that will affect many aspects of an individual’s life including loss of interest in activities or a decrease of energy. Depression is associated with a lack of serotonin (5-HT) in the synapses of the brain. The neurotransmitter 5-HT regulates sleep, appetite, and mood. St. John’s Wort is an herbaceous perennial plant used in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Our goal was to use the round worm, C.elegans, as a model organism to identify the mechanism by which SJW might function as an antidepressant. We can measure 5-HT- dependent behaviors such as locomotory responses in the worm by measuring speed using a video camera, and an automated tracking software. Using mutant worms lacking the proteins for 5-HT signaling such as tryptophan hydroxylase (tph-1) or the serotonin reuptake transporter (mod-5) can be used to test the mechanism of action of SJW extract’s antidepressant activity. In the experiments the following concentrations of 0 mg/mL, 1 mg/mL, and 10 mg/mL of SJW extract solubilized in glycerol or ethanol were used. The wild-type worms showed a decrease in speed using the glycerol extracts (10mg/ml) from 168 m/s to 138 m/s while the SJW extract containing ethanol showed no decrease in speed. These results suggest there may be differences in the amount or type of active components in the two extracts. We are currently examining whether or not the glycerol effects are serotonin dependent by testing SJW on tph-1 mutant worms since many antidepressant drugs effect serotonin levels. 

Presented At: SACNAS October 2017

Take the Next Step to Becoming a Wildcat.