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Symposium Proceedings


Note: This session will be held in the Jones Seminar Room.


Oral Flash Talk Session C: 

10:15 am - 11:30 pm

Various Disciplines (10 flash talks)




C-01     Maha Achour

Research Collaborators:  Tarosha Salpadoru, Sharmily Khanam, Erika Lutter, Spencer Pitre, Prasadi Gallage, Michael Franklin

Research Presentation Title:  The role of phosphate and calcium-regulated protein, PcrP, in resistance of a human pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, to Polymyxin B.

Faculty Research Mentor:  Marianna Patrauchan, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics


Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Pa) is a Gram-negative human pathogen and a leading cause of severe acute and chronic infections. It is known to cause airway blockage and cellular damage in patients with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) – leading to high morbidity and mortality. This pathogen has been of particular interest due to its multi-drug resistance, including “last resort antibiotic”, polymyxin-B (PMB). Studies have shown that elevated calcium (Ca2+) and lowered phosphate (Pi) alter bacterial susceptibility to antimicrobial treatment – implying their regulatory role in Pa resistance. Previously, we showed that elevated Ca2+ levels, commonly detected in airways of CF patients, enhance PMB resistance in Pa through novel Ca2+-dependent mechanisms. We have also shown that the upregulation of putative phophonatase PA2803 is mediated by both Ca2+ and Pi– therefore designating it as PcrP (Pi and Ca2+-regulated protein). Although studies of pcrP deletion mutant supported its role in Pa PMB resistance, PcrP function remains unclear. Via sequence analyses and enzymatic studies, we found that PcrP has no phosphonatase activity, and therefore explored its potential protein-binding function. By using protein-pull down assays in the presence or absence of Ca2+ and Pi starvation conditions, we identified several putative binding partners of PcrP followed by bacterial two-hybrid system (B2HS) for validation. The Beta-Galactosidase activity of the co-transformed constructs was assayed both qualitatively and quantitatively to evaluate the strength of protein-protein interactions. B2HS supported the earlier observed dimerization of PcrP and validated the interaction of PcrP with hypothetical protein PA3518 and Acyl-carrier protein 3, Acp3. Based on sequence analysis, PA3518 may have a role in heavy metal (notably, Cu2+) sensitivity. Acp3 is known to interact with catalase and therefore may be involved with reactive oxygen species (ROS) regulation in cells. In agreement, we showed that PcrP reduces Ca2+-dependent ROS production in Pa. Thus, the interaction of PcrP with Acp3 may contribute to Pa resistance to ROS and therefore enhance its resistance to PMB known to generate ROS.


C-02     Dulandika Malalage

Research Collaborators:  Reygan Braga, Aya Kubo

Research Presentation Title:  Diverse Extracellular Stimuli Trigger Intracellular Calcium Signaling in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Faculty Research Mentor:  Marianna Patrauchan, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the leading cause of life-threatening infections, particularly in the lungs of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients. Its ability to quickly adapt and intrinsic resistance to antibiotics and host defenses make P. aeruginosa very difficult to eradicate. P. aeruginosa has been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) as one of the priority bacterial pathogens in critical need of new treatments. Calcium (Ca2+) is an important eukaryotic signaling ion that has been detected at abnormally high concentrations in the nasal and lung secretions of CF patients. Previous studies in our lab discovered that elevated Ca2+ as in the CF respiratory tract increases production of several virulence factors of P. aeruginosa.  To characterize the molecular mechanisms of this regulation, our group discovered the prerequisites of intracellular Ca2+ signaling in P. aeruginosa that include controlled intracellular Ca2+ homeostasis, transient changes in the intracellular Ca2+ in response to exogenous Ca2+ that are required for Ca2+-regulated gene expression. We also identified several key components of the Ca2+ regulatory network, including Ca2+ transporters and sensors. To understand whether Ca2+ signaling is involved in P aeruginosa responsiveness to extracellular signals, it is essential to identify such signals. For this, we have introduced a Ca2+- binding fluorescent probe R-GECO1 that elicits a Ca2+-dependent fluorescence signal into P. aeruginosa (PAO1) generating PAO1::pASK201. By using this strain, we have tested a variety of stimuli, including antibiotics, signaling molecules, amino acids, and other ions. We observed that intracellular Ca2+ levels respond to the addition of antibiotics Tobramycin and Polymyxin B, quorum sensing signal PQS, FeSO4, and amino acids asparagine, arginine, and tryptophan. Currently, we are expanding this list to include clinically relevant fatty acids, sugars, and oxidizing agents. This study will provide a new understanding of which groups of host stimuli trigger Ca2+-dependent responses in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.


C-03     Withdrawn


C-04     Therese Madeleine Tankam

Research Collaborators:  Landon Butler, Joanna Koilpillai

Research Presentation Title:  Does conjugated linoleic acid supplementation improve skeletal muscle function and metabolism in obese individuals

Faculty Research Mentor:  Joshua Butcher, Physiological Sciences


Background: In the U.S, it is estimated that 42.4% of adults are considered overweight, with about 9.2% considered severely obese: obesity being the excess abnormal accumulation of fat. To be considered obese, an adult must have a BMI>30. In Oklahoma, 32.3% of children and 31.9 % of adults can be considered obese. This excess accumulation of fat in the adipose tissue ultimately increases whole-body inflammation, a myriad of cardiovascular symptoms (insulin resistance, atherosclerosis) and severe mobility issues.  It has been observed that when there is excess fat, the body starts storing this ectopically. This ectopic fat can infiltrate into the muscle resulting in significant loss of mobility and strength and causing metabolic dysfunction. This intramuscular adipose tissue (IMAT) can distort the configuration of muscle fibers, which is integral to its function. This leads to hyperinflammation within the muscle and insulin resistance in the muscle. Though intramuscular fat makes up about 8% of adipose tissue, it has a considerable impact on the overall health of individuals. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a type of fatty acid naturally occurring in animal products such as milk. This type of fatty acid has a significant role in the breakdown of fatty acid for energy synthesis; it has also shown considerable positive effects in various metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity. In obesity especially, a myriad of research shows it effectively modulates body composition and increases mitochondrial function, promoting the loss of adipose tissue in favor of lean mass. (Lehnen et al. A review on effects of conjugated linoleic fatty). However, despite this wealth of information, it is still unclear if CLA administration influences skeletal muscle function, a key outcome that will dictate a long-term impact on systemic physiology. There has yet to be any investigation of how CLA supplementation can help mitigate the impact of IMAT on muscle tissue and metabolism. Therefore, I hypothesize that dietary supplementation with CLA could help increase muscle function and reverse the negative metabolic effects of excess adiposity in an obese mouse. Figure 1 is data that I generated in lab showing clear deficits in skeletal muscle function in our obese model, compared to lean.  Experimental design: Mice models have proven to be the most receptive to CLA so I will use the db/db strain. This strain has a dysfunctional leptin receptor and is considered a model of metabolic syndrome by 12 weeks of age. For my work, it is particular relevant because it resistant to weight loss; as such it will give conclusive results independent of weight loss itself. Overall, the mice will be put on a diet of 0.5% CLA (50:50 mixture of c11 t9 and t10c12) for 12 weeks.  Aim 1: Assess muscle function during dietary CLA intervention. Key assessments will be made pre-experiment (baseline), midway (6 wks.), and post-experiment (12 wks.): including body composition using a DXA scanner, in vivo muscle function (force and fatigue) using an Aurora Scientific 1300A, glucose homeostasis (fasting plasma glucose and glucose tolerance tests). 

Aim 2: Assess inflammatory markers and adipocyte infiltration in skeletal muscle. At the termination of the experiment, the expression of insulin, leptin and other inflammation markers (NEFA, TBARS) will be assessed by ELISA. The gastroc will be removed, weighed, and prepared for immunohistochemistry, specifically Oil Red O staining for determination of lipid droplets within the skeletal muscle itself. Overall Impact: This research project is designed to test a nutritional interventional (CLA) and its effect on skeletal muscle function. It could provide an alternative treatment for muscle loss in people who are less active due to obesity, injury, or age. This could help them lose some excess fat, particular intra-organ, making exercise much easier. With a regain in muscle function and reduction in inflammation and insulin resistance, this new avenue of nutritional supplementation targeting mostly muscle health could lead to general lifestyle improvement by easing the transition into healthy habits in a shorter time.


C-05     Jerryme Mitchell

Research Collaborators:  Marshan Marick, Greg Robinson, Kristi Williams

Research Presentation Title:  The May 6th Initiative: Community Research for Reproductive Health Equity

Faculty Research Mentor:  Tami Moore, Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Aviation


Being healthy means more than not being sick. Complex social factors and system racism are such powerful influences that people in some communities will die twenty years earlier than others living just a few miles away. Unfortunately, this death prediction connects to the Black mother mortality rate in Tulsa, Oklahoma and nationally. This project is funded under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s program, Community Research for Health Equity (CRHE), a community-led research program that seeks to elevate community voices and make the priorities of communities the primary goal of local health system transformation efforts. The goal of the study is to examine how providing skills, knowledge, and resources to those impacted by reproductive health issues in the Tulsa area works to influence health system policy. The study seeks to equip reproductive health advocates with community organizing strategies complemented by community-based participatory research approaches to collect stories from individuals with direct experience of reproductive health inequity. The information collected will be integrated with relevant health data. Participatory data analysis will then be used to identify common themes, which will then inform the development of policy priorities and changes in practice and education. Deliverables will include a project work plan and annual and final narrative and financial reports. The project team will also produce a public-facing product of their choice to share new knowledge that can address local health care system inequities and/or make recommendations for action toward system improvements, including the catalytic potential of community-university partnerships to advance community-driven research for health equity.  


C-06     Duoying Liang

Research Collaborators:  Jingyi Zhang

Research Presentation Title:  Unveiling the Function of 14-3-3 Gene Family in Plant-Microbe Symbiosis

Faculty Research Mentor:  Feng Feng, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) stand as essential nutrients that govern plant growth and development. However, the availability of N and P in soil is very limited. The requirement for enhanced agricultural productivity has led to the widespread use of large amounts of fertilizers in the field, resulting in environmental damages. Nutrient runoff and soil degradation are now prevalent issues, demanding a thoughtful examination of sustainable approaches that preserve the delicate balance of ecosystems. In nature, plant roots are associated with a variety of microorganisms, some of which are beneficial and can establish a symbiotic relationship with plant roots to provide essential nutrient support for plant growth. Rhizobia bacteria, by forming root nodules on legume roots, convert nitrogen gas in the atmosphere to ammonia, while Arbuscular Mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) colonize the interior of plant roots to enhance phosphorus and other nutrient absorption in over 80% of terrestrial plants. However, the molecular mechanism by which plant roots interact with these microbes to establish symbiosis remains largely unknown. The 14-3-3 gene family is essential for the regulation of diverse biological processes in plants, making it a critical component of plant growth, development, and responses to environmental challenges. Our research aims to understand the function of the 14-3-3 gene family in plant symbiosis. Using legume plants, specifically Medicago truncatula, as a model species, we perform a genetic screening of individual mutants within the entire 14-3-3 gene family to investigate their roles in nodulation and mycorrhizal colonization. We expect to identify the major players among the 14-3-3 genes in the regulation of root nodule symbiosis and AMF symbiosis, with the next step focusing on exploring the interactive proteins of the identified 14-3-3 proteins to understand how these proteins influence plant symbiosis signaling pathways. This study will provide us with new insights into future improvements in agricultural practices, reducing the use of chemical fertilizers.


C-07     Harrison Frazier

Research Collaborators:  Adeyinka Ogunbajo

Research Presentation Title:  From Farm to Workforce

Faculty Research Mentor:  Jeff Sadler, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering


Every industry has been influenced by technology. The agricultural sector, now more than ever, is seeing a large change in salary allocation due to technological advancements. For example, with the advancements in autonomous vehicles being made currently, agricultural equipment manufacturers need more software engineers. Our goal was to create a workshop for 4-H students to introduce them to the basic use of software and sensor technologies. The workshop introduces the use of sensors and microprocessors with a use case of measuring the dielectric current in soil. The demonstration aims to allow the students to see firsthand the importance of technology. A more complex version of the workshop will be developed for older students to illustrate applications for sensors. During the building of the workshop, we realized we needed a better way to measure the moisture level of the soil. An experiment was conducted to analyze the best sensor to use. We found that a capacitive soil moisture sensor was most useful for our application. The capacitive sensor provides a more robust approach than what was previously used. The sensor also provides more reliable readings due to its surface area. We are currently working on adding a demonstration to the workshop, this will include using the sensor with contrasting soil textures. With these demonstrations, we hope to provide 4-H students with a memorable, hands-on experience introducing digital technology from an agricultural perspective. 


C-08     Alek Nino

Research Collaborators:  Yu Feng

Research Presentation Title:  Identify Optimal Turbulence Models to Predict Transitional Pulmonary Airflow Regimes

Faculty Research Mentor: Yu Feng, Chemical Engineering

Computation Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is significant in pulmonary healthcare innovation, particularly in developing novel inhalation therapy to target specific areas in airways for disease treatment. However, the practical application of CFD, especially via Large Eddy Simulations (LES), is often limited in individualized treatments due to high demands on computational resources. Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) models are alternatives to LES, which can only predict a time-averaged flow variable, compromising on resolution for computational efficiency. Stress Blend Eddy Simulation (SBES) is a new hybrid CFD simulation method that combines the LES and RANS methods by utilizing RANS to solve the boundary layer and LES to solve the bulk flow domain. To save computational time, it is interesting to see which RANS or SBES model is the best suited to predicting lung airway transitional flows. To provide insight into the most capable RANS models for lung airway transitional flows, an experimentally validated LES simulation using the Smagorinsky-Lilly sub-grid scale model was implemented to provide benchmark data for selecting the optimal RANS or SBES model for analyzing transitional laminar-to-turbulent flows in a subject-specific mouth-to-trachea upper airway domain. k-ω and k-ε models were employed to compare their ability to predict lung airway transitional flows. Mouth inhalation flow rates range from 30 L/min to 90 L/min, with the validation of results being compared at 60 L/min. Comparisons indicate that each RANS model varies in accuracy and has its own advantage. The k-ε model predicted TKE throughout the flow more accurately than the k-ω model. On the other hand, the k-ω model produces velocity flow fields that agree better with the LES but arrive at its solution at a slower rate. Future work will include finding the best SBES model for simulating lung airway transitional flows. The SBES models can employ both k-ω or k-ε models in the near-wall regions, so further research into whether velocity or TKE has the larger impact on the accuracy and efficiency of the SBES model is necessary to determine which turbulence model can provide the optimal balance between computational efficiency and accuracy for the transitional flow predictions in the human upper airway.  


C-09     Thomas Morton

Research Collaborators:  Abinash Borah

Research Presentation Title:  Trust-Based Approach to Sybil Attack Detection in VANETs

Faculty Research Mentor:  Anirudh Paranjothi, Computer Science


Connected autonomous vehicles, also known as Vehicular Ad hoc Networks (VANETs), hold great promise, but concerns persist regarding safety, privacy, and security, particularly in the face of Sybil attacks where malicious entities falsify neighboring traffic information. Sybil attacks in VANETs involve adversaries creating multiple fake identities to manipulate network behavior, leading to various security threats such as misinformation dissemination, traffic congestion, and collisions. Though there have been many improvements to current detection techniques, many approaches present significant processing delays before the detection of a Sybil event occurs, which poses a substantial risk in mitigating the damages incurred by an attack. Likewise, many detection tactics rely on broad architecture that may not be present at the attack location.

To address these concerns, this research proposes a trust-based scoring metric for assessing the integrity of vehicle data in VANETs. Our approach involves developing a framework that evaluates information conveyed between local vehicle clusters and maintaining a cumulative trust score for each vehicle based on the suspected integrity of the vehicle’s reported data. Suspicious entities that fail to maintain an adequate trust score are subjected to statistical evaluation, and the vehicle’s legitimacy is challenged using directional antennas to verify the vehicle’s presence at its reported GPS location. 

To assess the effectiveness of our proposed framework, we utilize the Simulation of Urban MObility (SUMO) traffic simulator, developed by the German Aerospace Center. The implementation of our framework within the SUMO simulator provides a robust platform for evaluating traffic management strategies and analyzing their impact on various metrics such as traffic flow, congestion levels, travel times, and processing delays.

Our simulation results demonstrate high precision in detecting malicious entities, even in networks with up to 40% malicious nodes. Notably, our approach achieves these results without the need for traffic control architecture, thereby reducing processing delays in VANETs. These findings hold significant implications for enhancing security and trustworthiness in autonomous vehicular networks through rapid and precise detection of malicious entities in VANETs.


C-10     Withdrawn

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