Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Jennifer Bestman

Committee Members

Randolph Coleman

Lizabeth Allison


Neurogenesis is the process of neuron formation from division of brain stem cells, also known as neural progenitor cells (NPC). This project tests whether expression of mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM) in NPCs induces the cells to change their levels of cell proliferation and generate neurons at a higher rate than control cells. TFAM is a nuclear encoded gene that acts in the mitochondria on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) compaction and transcription initiation. TFAM promotes the expression of several mtDNA genes, including those that encode essential proteins for mitochondrial ATP production. I hypothesize that increased mitochondrial activity via TFAM expression leads to earlier NPC division into neurons rather than dividing into more NPCs. To do this work, NPCs in the optic tectum of Xenopus laevis tadpoles were labeled with fluorescent protein expression vectors and in vivo time lapse images were acquired each day over a three-day period. These data were analyzed to compare the number of NPCs and neurons generated in TFAM-expressing tecta compared to control tadpole tecta. How the cell proliferation activity of NPCs in the developing brain is regulated is not fully known. Understanding mechanisms of neurogenesis is important to combating neurodevelopmental disorders like microcephaly. Thus, this project aims to get a clearer understanding of TFAM’s role and the mitochondrial role in neurogenesis. More research needs to be done to answer these questions, but it is possible that TFAM plays a role in regulating mitochondrial activity and NPC differentiation. Overall this study examines the role of mitochondria in neurogenesis through TFAM.

Available for download on Sunday, May 09, 2027

On-Campus Access Only