Ciencias y Tecnología

Ex-situ Conservation of Scutellaria havanensis: A Potential Medicinal Plant

Investigador: Juan A. Negrón-Berríos, Ph.D.

Scutellaria is a genus of about 400 species and many species have been used in traditional Native American medicine. Pharmacological studies have confirmed that total extracts or flavonoids of the genus Scutellaria possess antilipoperoxidation, anti-platelet, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, hepatoprotective, antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral activities. It is proposed to research the herb Scutellaria havanensis, only Scutellaria species reported from Puerto Rico. The objective pursued is the ex situ conservation of the herb using plant tissue culture by simplifying protocols to effectively micropropagate explants. This study seeks to optimize the rate at which multiple, viable shoots are induced reproducibly. We expect to achieve ex-situ conservation using tissue culture technology and optimized the time for shoot induction using various types (leaf, node, shoot tip, internode, and thin cell layer cultures) of explants. We hope that the antioxidant capacity of the plant provides basis for future phytochemical screening and clinical research. This work was supported by USDE Grant Number P031M09001

Micropropagation of Caribbean Grape Varieties

Investigador: Juan A. Negrón-Berríos, Ph.D.

Grape is a plant that has been cultured since ancient times. Grapes belong to the genus Vitis, family Vitaceae, and native from the Mediterranean, Central Europe and Southwest Asia. The grapes global trade generates around a billion dollars in exports of thousands of tons of grapes. Due to the tropical climate, in the Caribbean grapes can produce two to three crops in the year, making this fruit a potential source of commercial value as table fruit, vinaigrettes, wines, juice and more. A limitation to accomplish this goal is the need to identify grapes species with good adaptation to the tropical climate, standardization of propagation techniques, and in general, lack of research applied to grapes in the Caribbean. There are a limited number of grapes varieties that have demonstrated adaptability to the Caribbean. Vegetative propagation has been used extensively in grapes cultivars. Micropropagation offers faster and more efficient methods for the production of pathogen free stocks and to amplify genetic variation in selected cultivars. We have applied micropropagation to two varieties from Muscat grape that have shown adaptability to the tropical climate. Our main goal is to improve productivity and add value to these grape varieties through micropropagation. Shoot-tip media was prepared; the explants were cultured in this media with growth regulators to generate roots and shoots. Different concentrations of auxins and cytokinins were used to promote cell division. Callus formation was induced by cytokinin and auxin. This work was supported by USDE Grant Number P031C110181.

Heavy metals and gene expression in plant stomata

Investigador: Juan A. Negrón-Berríos, Ph.D.

Stomata are structures that regulate leaf gas exchange with the atmosphere, allowing the entrance of CO2 to promote photosynthesis and the exit of O2 as a byproduct. Many studies have documented the changes caused by environmental stress in the number of stomata on plant leaves and in the opening and closing of these plant structures. Opening and closing of stomata is regulated by environmental and physiological factors, such as hormones, however, many molecular and genetic details have not been revealed. The purpose of this research is to understand the genetic and molecular basis of the environmental stress on plant stomata. We are focused on the effect of heavy metals on the expression of the following genes from Arabidopsis thaliana:stomatal closure-related actin binding protein 1 (SCAB1), actin 2 (ACT2), myosin (MYOATP), metallothionein 2B (MT2B), and nine-cis-epoxycarotenoid dioxygenase 3 (NCED3). Plants were exposed to cadmium and total RNA from whole plant and plant stomata was isolate. Different bioinformatics tools were used to assess and identify specific oligonucleotide sequences for these genes. cDNA was obtained and gene expression was determined by real time PCR. Preliminary results showed changes in the expression of SCAB1, ACT2, MYOATP, MT2B and NCED3 due to exposure to cadmium. Experiments are underway to establish a relationship between the opening and closing of stomata due exposition to cadmium. This work was supported by USDE Grant Number P031C110181

Effects of Cadmium on Epigenetics of Cytoskeletal Genes in CHO Cells

Investigador: Juan A. Negrón-Berríos, Ph.D.

Epigenetic is a mechanism that involves changes in the expression of genes, which are not involved in changes or alterations in the sequence of the DNA strands. DNA methylation is one of the most studied chemical changes associated to epigenetics. Highly methylated DNA is usually associated to inhibition of transcriptions. Actin cytoskeleton provides support and internal organization to the cell. It is also involved in intracellular transport.

The goal of this study is to investigate epigenetics of β actin non-muscle myosin type II in cytoskeleton of Chinese Hamster Ovaries cells (CHO cells) exposed to cadmium. In particular, we are interested in the methylation profile in β actin and non-muscle myosin type II during the toxic conditions induced by the heavy metal. Genomic DNA was isolated and treated with the bisulfite reaction, in which the un-methylated cytosine were transformed in thymine, later using PCR reaction these thymine residues were transformed in uracil, whereas, the methylated cytosine residues remain unchanged. High Resolution Melting (HRM) analysis through real time PCR assay was used to obtain the percentage of DNA methylation. This allows us to discriminate between methylated and non-methylated cytosine. Bioinformatics was used to develop specific primers for the promoter region of actin and myosin from CHO cells. Primers were calibrated using regular and real time PCR, to make sure of their specificity. Preliminary results indicate differences in methylation profile at the promoter region of actin and myosin genes in CHO cells during to exposition to, cadmium. This work was supported by USDE Grant Number P031M09001

Cadmium toxicity and small non-coding RNAs in animal cells

Investigador: Juan A. Negrón-Berríos, Ph.D.

Cadmium is an environmental hazard that causes cell damage. Cytotoxicity and cell death has been clearly demonstrated in liver and kidney. However, the specific toxic effects at the molecular level remain to be elucidated. In this study we have used Chinese Hamsters Ovary Cells (CHOs) to investigate the genetic and molecular mechanisms of cadmium toxicity. Cell viability assays, gene expression of metal binding proteins and non-coding RNAs analysis have been done by Reverse Transcription Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (RTqPCR). Exposition of CHOs to µM concentrations of cadmium, showed a correlation with cell death, overexpression of metallothioneins, and down-regulation and up-regulation and small non-coding RNAs. Identification of these cadmium responsive non-coding RNAs is being completed by cloning and sequencing. These results suggest a role of small non-coding RNAs in cadmium toxic effects in animal cells. This work was supported by US Department of Education, Award # PO31C110181.

Stomata and adaptation to environmental stress

Investigador: Dr. Juan A. Negrón-Berríos, Ph.D.

Stomata are leaf structures in plants that regulate gas exchange between the plant and the atmosphere. Through the years, a decrease in stomata density in plants has been observed. It has been hypothesized that this decrease in stomata is due to an increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere of the planet. This suggests an adaptation of plants to environmental stress and a sign of climate change due to global warming. Opening and closing of stomata is regulated by environmental and physiological factors, such as hormones, however, many molecular and genetic details have not been revealed. Cadmium is a heavy metal and when it is released in the environment, causes several damages to all forms of life. This work is geared to explain the mechanism of the stress caused by cadmium in stomata. Arabidopsis thaliana has been used in this work as plant model to study cadmium effects on stomata density, gene expression, and actin cytoskeleton. Experimental strategy included: 1) immunocytochemical analysis of contractile proteins in the stomata, 2) the creation of a cDNA library from isolated guard cells, and 3) the in vivo analysis of cadmium in Arabidopsis thaliana. Preliminary results confirm that due to cadmium toxicity, there are alterations in stomata density, differences in gene expression profile, and possible participation of actin cytoskeleton. Broader impacts of this work include, the molecular and genetic mechanisms associated to plant response to environmental stress play a critical role in the distribution of plants species across different types of environment and in determining productivity of crop yields. Additionally, the study of heavy metal accumulation in plants is required to develop effective phytoremediation strategies. This work was supported by US Department of Education, Award # PO31C110181.

Molecular mechanism of heavy metals phytoremediation using tropical plants

Juan A. Negrón-Berríos, Ph.D.
Inter American University of Puerto Rico
Barranquitas Campus

Heavy metals pollution is a worldwide problem that has deteriorated environment and has placed human health into risk. Heavy metals can disturb metabolism by binding non-specifically to biomolecules and by inducing oxidative damage to cell structures and to DNA. Heavy metals represent a challenge, since metals in their elemental state cannot be decomposed further. Available alternatives to clean contaminated soils and water resources are tedious, not very effective and highly expensive. Some plant species can hyperaccumulate toxic heavy metals, and are therefore, potential phytoremediators. Phytoremediation involves the removal of toxic heavy metals from contaminated soils and waters, or rendering them harmless by accumulating, chelating, or transforming these contaminants into biologically inactive forms through green plants. The development of effective phytoremediation technologies has been limited, due to the lack of understanding of the mechanism involved in metal accumulation. Key components of this mechanism, such as the detailed intracellular and molecular events associated to heavy metal mobilization and toxicity in animals and plants have not been fully established. In this work, atomic absorption spectroscopy has been used to demonstrate hyperaccumulation capacity of tropical plants propagated in vitro. Molecular genetics and biochemical studies have been used to elucidate the homeostasis of heavy metals in plants. Genes involved in heavy metals resistance and accumulation in plants has been identified. This work is geared to elucidate heavy metal homeostasis at the cellular level, with emphasis on metal binding proteins and the possible role of the plant cytoskeleton.

Biotechnological analysis of fresh water from the Manatí River

Juan A. Negrón-Berríos, Ph.D.
Inter American University of Puerto Rico
Barranquitas Campus

Purpose: The superficial waters of Puerto Rico are generally of poor quality because of sanitary, agriculture, and industrial discharges. We have used classical and biotechnological tools, to evaluate the water quality at the initial segment of the hydrographic basin of Rio Grande of Manatí. A molecular characterization and quantification of bacteria of the genus Enterococcus spp, have been accomplished as an alternative for a fast and specific diagnostic tool of possible contamination with fecal matter in fresh water.

Proyecto Investigación JA Negrón


Educación, Ciencias Sociales y Estudios Humanísticos

Los cristianos y la política de la tortura en la lucha contra el terrorismo: Una perspectiva histórico-pastoral

Investigador: Francisco Concepción Márquez

Estudio de las dimensiones teológico-pastorales del uso de la tortura como instrumento político en la lucha contra el terrorismo. Luego de establecer un marco conceptual fundamentado en la eclesiología de Monseñor Romero se estudiarán los argumentos ético-morales utilizados para legitimar la tortura como instrumento jurídico-político. En la última parte se analizará la pastoral contra la tortura diseñada por las Iglesias de Estados Unidos a la luz de la eclesiología latinoamericana. Se argumenta que el torturado, según la doctrina cristiana, es iglesia por ser el oprimido de un momento específico de la historia. Finalmente se sostiene que el acto de solidaridad con el torturado es la única política posible para las Iglesias y para lograr una reconciliación social a la luz de los eventos recientes. El trabajo utiliza criterios de filosofía latinoamericana, filosofía hegeliana sobre la historia y teología de la liberación como referentes teóricos para analizar las percepciones acerca del uso de la tortura y las reacciones de las comunidades eclesiales como entes sociológicos. Los instrumento de recopilación de información utilizados serán extraídos de las ciencias sociales, y de la sociología en particular, al entender que la teología pastoral es una aplicación de la sociología como instrumento de construcción de conocimiento.

Origen y desarrollo de la conexión entre santería y narcotráfico en la opinión pública de Puerto Rico

Investigador: Lcdo. Francisco J. Concepción Márquez

Investigación cualitativa sobre el origen de la idea de que existe una conexión entre el narcotráfico y la santería en Puerto Rico. Se investigan las publicaciones periodísticas desde la década de los sesenta identificando las menciones a la religión conocida como “Santería” y los contextos donde se menciona la misma. Se explorará, posteriormente, las percepciones que se tienen hoy sobre dicha posible relación. Se establecerá una correlación entre dichas percepciones y los prejuicios raciales en la isla.

Correlación entre pobreza y criminalidad

Investigador: Lcdo. Francisco J. Concepción Márquez

Estudio cuantitativo sobre la correlación entre la pobreza y los índices de criminalidad en diferentes regiones de la isla. Se está explorando la correlación estadística entre los índices de recipientes de asistencia nutricional en regiones diversas, específicamente el centro, la zona metropolitana y el sur de Puerto Rico, con los índices de crímenes violentos según notificados en las estadísticas oficiales de la policía. Se quiere corroborar la tesis de que el crimen violento, tanto violencia doméstica como otros crímenes de dicha naturaleza, incrementan ante el incremento de la pobreza estructural en las diferentes regiones de la isla.

Life Histories of Outstanding English Teachers

Investigadora: Dra. Patricia Álvarez Swihart

The teaching of English in the public schools of Puerto Rico, far from effective and fraught with controversy from its inception, has a fascinating history. Although recorded in myriad documents, the official history seldom tells the entire story. Teachers are important and relatively unexplored sources of knowledge about teaching, and, if their stories are not preserved, a rich part of this legacy will be lost forever.

The purpose of this study was to compile the life histories of outstanding retired English teachers with the twofold purpose of documenting their memories of living, learning, and teaching English in Puerto Rico, and exploring the practical knowledge they have accumulated over the years. It is a descriptive qualitative study that uses a life history narrative research design. The participants were identified through a process of community nomination, and stories obtained through recorded in-depth oral history interviews constitute the primary data. Historical documents and artifacts provided additional information.

Una mirada a los espacios del arrabal metropolitano del siglo XIX: Voz y presencia en la personalidad social del Puerto Rico moderno y post moderno

Investigadora: Vilma Pizarro Santiago Ed. D.; Ph. D.

El propósito de esta investigación es presentar una descripción de los barrios metropolitanos del San Juan del siglo XIX, enfatizando el último cuarto de siglo, luego de la emancipación de los esclavos. Esta descripción se realiza desde varias perspectivas, entre ellas, la demográfica, la social y cultural y la del mundo del trabajo de los libertos. Por medio de esta visitación a los antiguos barrios, se pretende identificar si estos y sus habitantes de alguna manera influyeron en la personalidad de pueblo del Puerto Rico moderno y post moderno y cuál fue dicha influencia.

The Ethnolinguistic Identity of the University Of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus’ First Year College Students: Its Implications in Their Attitudes towards the Learning of English as a Second Language

Autor: Vilma Pizarro Santiago Ed.D.

The purpose of this study was to explore the attitudes of 1st year Puerto Rican college students towards the learning of the English language in relation to their ethnolinguistic identity. The importance of studying attitudes can be traced back to studies such as Thogmartin’s (1971, December), who believes that attitudes will either inhibit or promote the learning of a language.

El antillanismo de Hostos en su epistolario

Autor: Dr. Orlando Santiago Díaz

Hace ya algún tiempo nos habíamos aproximado al tema del antillanismo del prócer a través de las páginas de su novela-diario La peregrinación de Bayoán.1 Muy joven (tenía 24 años de edad) Hostos publica esa obra, de alientos plenamente antillanos, incluso con nombres indígenas, para resaltar más claramente el compromiso americanista y caribeño que persigue. Cuenta en sus páginas los sinsabores y tormentos de un puertorriqueño llamado Bayoán, quien peregrina por tempestuosos mares en busca de la libertad, alojando dos propósitos dentro de su ser: por un lado, el ideario de la redención de la patria y, por otro, si seguimos el hilo de la trama, el sentimiento amoroso hacia una mujer, la muy delicada Marién, nacida en Cuba, y sumado a esto, en el contexto de la ficción, Guarionex, quisquellano, todo como expresión simbólica de su sueño grande: la unión
de las tres grandes Antillas.