Date of Award

Spring 5-2-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Integrative Biology (MSIB)



Committee Chair/First Advisor

Susan Smith, PhD

Major Professor

Tsai-Tien Tseng, PhD

Second Committee Member

Lisa Ganser, PhD

Third Committee Member


Fourth Committee Member



Voltage-gated Ion Channels (VICs) form a superfamily of energy-independent membrane transporters that facilitate the transfer of charged sodium, calcium, and potassium ions across the cell membrane (Hodgkin & Huxley 1952). The channels contain a selective ion-conducting pore along with several other structural and gating features that come together to form a functional hetero- or homotetramer. A comprehensive phylogenetic study of all available proteins aimed at finding unknown distribution and illuminating evolutionary paths would be immensely useful in understanding relationships of structure, function, and organismal distribution. This phylogenetic analysis of VICs will be immensely useful in characterizing functional and structural distribution, conserved functional motifs, and evolutionary origins of the protein family. The full distribution of all discovered but possibly uncharacterized VIC sequences will be retrieved by searching the most comprehensive protein database available for potential homologs. Potential VIC homologs will be aligned for conservation analysis by multiple computational methods and by regions of the sequences that are of evolutionary interest. Finally, phylogenetic trees will be generated from the refined alignments to provide a basis for biological conclusions. At the end of this project, the expected results will illuminate the organismal distribution, conservation of functional regions, and paths of evolution of VICs.