Date of Submission

Spring 2023

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Michael Tibbetts

Abstract/Artist's Statement

It has been recognized that approximately 140 million people across 50 countries are drinking water contaminated with arsenic above the provisional guidelines of the World Health Organization. Arsenic is a naturally occurring metal that can be found in Earth’s crust as well as widely distributed throughout our air, land, and water, yet its inorganic form, however, arsenic is highly toxic. Arsenic can be consumed through smoking tobacco, cereals, seafood, and various animal products, but it is more commonly ingested through contaminated groundwater, posing a threat to public health. Long-term exposure to arsenic can cause skin lesions and has been associated with illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. One factor that puts individuals at a higher risk of cancer is the possibility arsenic could hypermethylate the p53 gene, a gene that plays a key role in tumor suppression.

The epigenetic effects of arsenic have been an intense area of research recently. While it is known children in utero that have been exposed are more likely to develop these previously mentioned ailments as they age, not much is known about how epigenetic changes in specific genes may factor into this. Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) share a homologous gene p53 with humans. I aimed to observe if the methylation of p53 after sodium arsenate exposure can be observed and modeled in fruit flies. Furthermore, I also attempted to observe if there was a transgenerational effect. Are the offspring of flies who have been exposed to arsenic more likely to develop methylation in their p53 gene? To study this I exposed a generation of fruit flies to sodium arsenate and then mated them to produce a second generation who had never been exposed to arsenic. Afterward, I extracted DNA from both generations and sequenced it, looking for effects on the p53 gene.

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