skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Merriman, Dana K."

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  2. Transposable elements (TEs) are genomic parasites that can propagate throughout host genomes. Mammalian genomes are typically dominated by LINE retrotransposons and their associated SINEs, and germline mobilization is a challenge to genome integrity. There are defenses against TE proliferation and the PIWI/piRNA defense is among the most well understood. However, the PIWI/piRNA system has been investigated largely in animals with actively mobilizing TEs and it is unclear how the PIWI/piRNA system functions in the absence of mobilizing TEs. The 13-lined ground squirrel provides the opportunity to examine PIWI/piRNA and TE dynamics within the context of minimal, and possibly nonexistent, TE accumulation. To do so, we compared the PIWI/piRNA dynamics in squirrels to observations from the rabbit and mouse. Despite a lack of young insertions in squirrels, TEs were still actively transcribed at higher levels compared to mouse and rabbit. All three Piwi genes were not expressed, prior to P8 in squirrel testis, and there was little TE expression change with the onset of Piwi expression. We also demonstrated there was not a major expression change in the young squirrel LINE families in the transition from juvenile to adult testis in contrast to young mouse and rabbit LINE families. These observationsmore »lead us to conclude that PIWI suppression, was weaker for squirrel LINEs and SINEs and did not strongly reduce their transcription. We speculate that, although the PIWI/piRNA system is adaptable to novel TE threats, transcripts from TEs that are no longer threatening receive less attention from PIWI proteins.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 16, 2023
  3. Most mammals maintain their body temperature around 37°C, whereas in hibernators it can approach 0°C without triggering a thermogenic response. The remarkable plasticity of the thermoregulatory system allowed mammals to thrive in variable environmental conditions and occupy a wide range of geographical habitats, but the molecular basis of thermoregulation remains poorly understood. Here we leverage the thermoregulatory differences between mice and hibernating thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) to investigate the mechanism of cold sensitivity in the preoptic area (POA) of the hypothalamus, a critical thermoregulatory region. We report that, in comparison to squirrels, mice have a larger proportion of cold-sensitive neurons in the POA. We further show that mouse cold-sensitive neurons express the cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channel CNGA3, and that mouse, but not squirrel, CNGA3 is potentiated by cold. Our data reveal CNGA3 as a hypothalamic cold sensor and a molecular marker to interrogate the neuronal circuitry underlying thermoregulation.
  4. Abstract

    Hibernation in sciurid rodents is a dynamic phenotype timed by a circannual clock. When housed in an animal facility, 13-lined ground squirrels exhibit variation in seasonal onset of hibernation, which is not explained by environmental or biological factors. We hypothesized that genetic factors instead drive variation in timing. After increasing genome contiguity, here, we employ a genotype-by-sequencing approach to characterize genetic variation in 153 ground squirrels. Combined with datalogger records (n = 72), we estimate high heritability (61–100%) for hibernation onset. Applying a genome-wide scan with 46,996 variants, we identify 2 loci significantly (p < 7.14 × 10−6), and 12 loci suggestively (p < 2.13 × 10−4), associated with onset. At the most significant locus, whole-genome resequencing reveals a putative causal variant in the promoter ofFAM204A. Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analyses further reveal gene associations for 8/14 loci. Our results highlight the power of applying genetic mapping to hibernation and present new insight into genetics driving its onset.