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Biogenesis of Hagfish Slime: Timing and Process of Slime Gland Refilling in Hagfishes (Eptatretus stoutii and Myxine glutinosa)

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Title: Biogenesis of Hagfish Slime: Timing and Process of Slime Gland Refilling in Hagfishes (Eptatretus stoutii and Myxine glutinosa)
Author: Schorno, Sarah
Department: Department of Integrative Biology
Program: Integrative Biology
Advisor: Fudge, DouglasGillis, Todd
Abstract: Mucus and slime production is widely represented throughout the animal kingdom. Many animals produce mucus for locomotion, to prevent desiccation, in mating, or to physically or chemically ward off predators and pathogens. However, the crown for volume of defensive slime formation goes to the hagfishes, who release components producing 0.9 litres of a gill-clogging slime within 100 milliseconds of an attack by a predator. Their slime is unique in that it contains protein fibres that have one of the highest tensile strengths of any biomaterial. Hagfishes produce slime components in specialized slime glands, which are found in pairs along the whole length of their body. These slime glands contain two main cell types, gland thread cells and gland mucous cells, which produce, respectively, the thread and mucous components of the defensive slime. Each gland thread cell produces a single, coiled, proteinaceous thread formation known as a thread skein, while each gland mucous cell produces thousands of tiny mucin vesicles. While much is known about the biochemistry of the gland thread cells and gland mucous cells, little was known about where these cells were produced within the slime gland, or how these cells were replenished after a sliming event. The objective of this thesis was to examine in detail the process of slime gland emptying and refilling. Using a number of cell manipulation, imaging and bioinformatics techniques, I reveal: (1) how long it takes for depleted slime glands to refill, (2) how the slime exudate composition changes during emptying and refilling of the gland, (3) the cellular mechanisms of refilling, (4) the site of slime cell proliferation, (5) the possible function of a third, previously undescribed cell type within the slime gland, and finally (6) the differential gene expression of slime glands during early refilling compared to full glands. Together, these findings provide a comprehensive analysis of the process of slime gland refilling in hagfish. Understanding more about how the slime glands refill and produce their cells may provide new insights into how the gland thread cells and gland mucous cells produce their respective components, which are useful biomimetic models for producing renewable, protein-based textiles and hydrogels.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/14302
Date: 2018-09


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