Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Jennifer E. Bestman

Committee Members

Greg Conradi Smith

Leisa Meyer

Margaret Saha


Neurodevelopment is a complex process that requires the precise spatiotemporal control of cellular differentiation. As cells differentiate, they undergo metabolic changes that make them increasingly reliant on their mitochondria for energy production. Beyond playing a central role in the bioenergetic support of newborn neurons, functional changes in mitochondria regulate the processes of cellular differentiation. Importantly, mitochondrial function extends beyond energy production. Mitochondria in neural stem cells play an essential role in both producing intermediates for biosynthesis and regulating calcium levels. In this thesis, I review the functional role of mitochondria in stem cell fate decisions, differentiation, and proliferation during neurodevelopment. Due to the challenges of directly measuring mitochondrial activity in vivo, I outline how genetically encoded fluorescent probes can be used to indirectly evaluate mitochondrial function. Beyond my review of this field, I engineered three genetically encoded fluorescent probes that can be used to measure both cytosolic and mitochondrial calcium activity in radial glial cells in Xenopus laevis. Preliminary imaging indicates the promising potential for these plasmids in the measurement of calcium activity and, by proxy, mitochondrial activity in differentiating stem cells.

On-Campus Access Only