Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.


Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Neuroscience & Behavior

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Chemosensation is achieved through the binding of chemical signals to chemoreceptor proteins embedded in the membranes of sensory neurons. The molecular identity of these receptors, as well as the downstream processing of chemosensory signals, has been well studied in arthropods and vertebrates. However, very little is known about molluscan chemosensation. The identity of chemoreceptor proteins in the nudibranch mollusc Berghia stephanieae are unknown. Data from other protostome and molluscan studies suggest Berghia may use ionotropic receptors for some forms of chemoreception. This study used a bioinformatics approach to identify potential chemosensory ionotropic receptors in the transcriptome of Berghia. A hidden Markov model program was used to generate molecular profiles of previously identified chemosensory receptors in other animals. A Berghia transcriptome was then searched for likely homologous sequences. Candidate sequences were investigated using protein prediction tools and molecular phylogenies. Fourteen ionotropic glutamate receptors (likely synaptic) and five divergent ionotropic receptors were identified. One of these divergent ionotropic receptor sequences, IR-D, may encode a chemosensory receptor and was therefore selected to determine its cellular expression in sensory and brain tissue using in situ hybridization chain reaction. Expression was seen in the rhinophores and oral tentacles of Berghia, as well as in the rhinophore ganglion, cerebral-pleural ganglion, and pedal ganglion. Similar expression patterns were obtained with tissue-specific transcriptomic data. This was the first study to investigate IR-D as a potential chemosensory receptor in molluscs, and thus has helped identify a new family of possible ionotropic chemoreceptor proteins in molluscs. These results have laid the groundwork for continued investigation of Berghia’s chemosensory system.


First Advisor

Paul S. Katz

Second Advisor

Courtney Babbitt

Third Advisor

Joseph Bergan

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.