Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

Biological Sciences BS


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Alex Flynt, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Biological Sciences


Tissue regeneration is an area of research with implications for medicine and animal health. While nearly all living multi-cellular organisms are capable of regeneration, there are major differences in the animal kingdom. Some organisms are capable of regenerating virtually every cell in their bodies. In hopes of engineering tissue regeneration for medical applications, the mechanisms by which organisms regenerate are being widely investigated. To better understand regeneration, the role of P-element Induced WImpy testis (PIWI) proteins are being evaluated. In collaboration with PIWIinteracting RNAs (piRNAs), PIWI proteins have been proven instrumental to transposon silencing and maintenance of the genome in germline cells. In recent years, PIWI-piRNA functions have also been discovered in somatic cells. As research continues, the link between piRNA and tissue regeneration is expanding. To further understand this connection, this study aims to investigate the relationship between somatic piRNAs and regeneration in the non-model organism Lytechinus variegatus. A member of the echinoderm phylum, green sea urchins can regenerate their spines and tube feet. While some studies have been done, piRNA expression has yet to be observed in the somatic tissues of this organism. In this study, piRNA expression was examined in regenerating and control tube feet samples through high throughput small RNA sequencing. While differential expression (DE) did not occur between these two conditions, piRNA expression was observed in somatic cells. Through Gene ontology (GO) and RepeatMasker analyses, it was determined that these piRNAs target transposons and gene segments involved in cell division, DNA Replication, transcription, and translation.