Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Gusso, M (2024). Investigating Large Repeats in the Arabidopsis thaliana Mitochondrial Genome Using MitoTALENs. Undergraduate Honors Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Megan Gusso 2024


This lab project explores the complexity of the mitochondrial genome by investigating large genomic repeats and their effect on flowering plants’ reproduction and viability. Mitochondria are the site of cellular respiration to create energy and contain their own DNA. This is counterintuitive because the byproducts of cellular respiration impose a threat of mutation for the stored DNA. The mitochondrial genome differs in size between animals and plants. Plant mitochondrial DNA is larger due to the presence of large, noncoding repeated sequences, and a large amount of DNA of unknown function. These sequences undergo high levels of recombination and rearrangement. The question of whether the large repeats have an important function has never been tested. Deleting these large repeats will provide information regarding their significance to the plant’s survival and reproductive state and possibly lead to the improvement of hybrid plant production. The technique used to delete the large repeats are called MitoTALENs. MitoTALENs are an instrument used to find, cut, and delete specific sequences in the plant mitochondrial genome. Deleting the large repeats will provide insight on their significance to the genome and how their absence affects the phenotypes. This project will also lead to new insights regarding the origin and evolution of the mitochondrial genome in flowering plants. The flowering plant used in this lab is Arabidopsis thaliana.