Date of Award

Fall 2023

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Matthew D MacManes

Second Advisor

David C Plachetzki

Third Advisor

Jeffery T Miller


This study is motivated by the global issue of climate change and its impact on the increasing prevalence of hot and arid environments, which in turn leads to water scarcity. While acknowledging these challenges, our research focuses on understanding the how desert-dwelling cactus mouse, P. eremicus, have adapt to their native desert environment. Using spatial transcriptomic sequencing, we created a spatial atlas of gene expression in hepatocytes and examined the baseline expression patterns in different zones. In this spatial atlas, hepatocyte genes were sequenced from their original spatial location in the tissue to establish the zonal patterns with neighboring hepatocytes. Notably, we found that cytochrome P450 genes, CYP 2E1, CYP1A2, CYP2A3, and CYP 2B1, were preferentially expressed in a specific region called pericentral hepatocytes. The CYP genes play a role in xenobiotic metabolism and may provide a heightened ability to metabolize the toxic native desert plants and seeds. With reliance on food for metabolic production of water, any additional food sources for desert animals may be crucial. We also identified the spatial distribution of lipid-related metabolic genes that were differentially expressed in water-deprived, desert-adapted Camelus bactrianus. As macronutrients are key to production of metabolic water, it is important to understand how desert-adapted species regulate lipid and carbohydrate metabolism. These findings lay the foundation for future experiments that aim to investigate the specific roles of these genes in cactus mice under water-deprived or diet-specific conditions. By delving deeper into these key genes, we can enhance our understanding of the liver's metabolic advantages and its potential contribution to resistance against dehydration. This knowledge has implications for addressing the challenges posed by water scarcity in arid environments and can aid in developing effective strategies for adaptation.