Date of Award

Spring 2022

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Honors Bachelor of Arts




Dr. Sabrice Guerrier

Committee Member

James Patrone

Committee Member

Jay Pieczynski


A cell’s shape directly affects how it behaves as one’s structure directly correlates to its function. The shape of cells and organelles is driven in part by the lipid bilayer that makes up their membranes. The process by which cells systematically adjust the types of lipids in membranes to facilitate changes in membrane shape remain uncertain. In our research, we aimed to address this issue by studying the role of lipid transfer proteins in the ciliate, Tetrahymena thermophilia. Specifically, we focus on the process of cell-cell fusion during mating in Tetrahymena as this requires a drastic change in membrane shape at a specific time and place along the cell membrane. Using methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MBCD), we showed that the curvature accommodating lipid, cholesterol, is required for mating in Tetrahymena. Through bioinformatics analysis, we were able to identify a potential cholesterol transfer protein, TTHERM_ 00129660 (YSP1-2), that is expressed during the fusion process and that contains domains consistent with membrane binding and deformation as well as lipid transfer. We were able to clone this gene and its key functional domains with a yellow fluorescent protein with the goal of determining their function and localization. Future experiments involve determining the localization and function of domains within YSP1-2, as well as testing the effects of cholesterol sequestration on cell-cell fusion specifically. Importantly, we think that because of the conservation and importance of cell-cell fusion in higher eukaryotes, we believe that the information that we glean from this research can be applicable to the broader understanding of cell-cell fusion.

Rights Holder

Natasha Kusibab