Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Eric Bradley

Committee Members

Margaret Saha

Kaitlyn Harrigan

Matthew Wawersik



Methylmercury is a harmful, widespread anthropogenic pollutant that is present in low levels in natural ecosystems. Although mercury toxicity at high concentrations and in adult organisms is well understood, few studies have evaluated the effects of methylmercury exposure during embryonic development, and even fewer studies have assessed the effects of methylmercury exposure on global gene expression in developing embryos. Unbiased global gene expression studies are highly informative, since they provide valuable insight into the specific molecular pathways and mechanisms affected by methylmercury exposure. This study was the first to evaluate the global genetic effects of low-level, chronic methylmercury exposure on zebra finch embryos at the beginning stages of embryonic development using an RNA-Seq methodology. The results of this study revealed a pattern of differential expression between zebra finch embryos exposed to 1.2 ppm of methylmercury and non-mercury dosed zebra finch embryos. These results indicate that methylmercury has a genetic effect on embryonic development, though this effect is not as pronounced as it would be at higher mercury concentrations or at later stages of development, suggesting that the embryos may be compensating for the effect of methylmercury exposure.

On-Campus Access Only