Mississippi College

Angela Whittom Reiken

Attention:  Students interested in off-campus research
As the coordinator for off-campus research through the Department of Biology, I will be happy to assist you in gaining credit for your future research experience! If you are a current MC Biology student interested in off-campus research, the syllabus and forms required for spring 2014 are now posted in a designated folder in the documents section.  Here, you may read the instructions for registering and the requirements. Please look over this information first, then you may email me with any questions you may have! 

Welcome to Dr. Reiken's Faculty Homepage!


Current Research Synopsis


Cystic Fibrosis:  We are using the Calu-3 cell line (American Type Culture Collection, ATCC HTB-55) as a respiratory model for studying the effects of natural plant enzymes, collectively referred to as bromelain, on human airway epithelial cells. These cells are derived from human lung bronchial submucosal glands that have the most impact on airway surface liquid relative to other pulmonary cell types.  Calu-3 monolayers cultured on permeable supports polarize at an ALI (air-liquid interface), produce mucins, and secrete substances that are immunologically active into the apical compartment in a manner characteristic of bronchiolar epithelium.  When exposed to therapeutics, including  pharmacological agents, integrity and permeability of the monolayer, cell viability, and histology can be used to measure response. These studies may be beneficial in understanding the physiology of mucin secreting glands and their roles in a variety of respiratory disorders.  Our focus is how bromelain may be utilized to provide symptomatic relief to those suffering from abnormal secretion of mucins, including that found in cystic fibrosis (CF).  A CF genetic mutation leads to damage in many areas of the body, including the lungs, due to abnormal transport of chloride and sodium ions across the epithelium.  The up-regulation of mucin-expressing genes found in lung cells in CF results in mucin secretions of increased viscosity.  Over time, the lungs become permanently damaged. We are currently working to determine the effects of bromelain on Calu-3 cells and secreted mucins through the study of bromelain toxicity, immunofluorescence microsopy, cell viability and metabolism assays, measuring uptake of bromelain, changes in mucin secretion or production, breakdown of secreted mucins, and Calu-3 production of reactive oxygen species.  Since epithelium of the airway is involved in the pathogenesis of many disorders, understanding the role of the airway epithelium, how mucin secretion is regulated and may be reduced, and the Calu-3 response to bromelain may facilitate the development of a novel therapy for certain respiratory disorders.


Pseudognathalium obtusifolium:  Studying the regional plant, Pseudognaphalium obtusifolum, an annual herb that is a member of the Asteraceae family, may lead to the discovery of possible medical uses. Historically, this Eastern North American plant has uses in traditional medicine among many Native American groups and early settlers of this region, yet little scientific research has delved into its actual medicinal value.  Our research aims to investigate the effects of P. obtusifolium extracts on eukaryotic cells and determine if the extracts have antibacterial or antioxidant properties.  Extracts were initially obtained from collected plants by treating each plant with different solvents – ethanol, hexane, and dichloromethane. Plants were treated with liquid nitrogen and homogenized and the extracts were suspended in DMSO.  Initially, serial dilutions of plant extracts were administered to Saccharomyces cerevisiae (budding yeast) HA2 strain in both liquid and agar plate cultures. In both quantitative and qualitative assessments, yeast cultured with a particular dilution of hexane extract were shown to have an increase in proliferation.  Further investigations are assessing the effects of hexane, ethanol, dichloromethane, and whole leaf plant extracts on HA2 and other S. cerevisiae strains.  Cultures grown with extract dilutions causing a significant increase or decrease in proliferation are tested for toxicity, cell viability, changes in mitochondrial morphology and distribution, and production of reactive oxygen species. These studies will hopefully lay the groundwork for more intensive studies of the reported therapeutic values of P. obtusifolium.


Mitochondrial Haplotyping:  Mitochondria are organelles found in the eukaryotic cytoplasm.  Each contains several copies of its own genome (mtDNA) that is distinct from nuclear DNA.  Since mitochondria contained in the zygote are those that were contained within the egg prior to fertilization, mtDNA can be used to trace maternal lineages.  mtDNA collects mutations at ten times the rate of nuclear DNA producing unique mtDNA SNPs (genomic variations of a single nucleotide) that are identified using restriction enzymes to obtain restriction fragments. When separated by agarose gel electrophoresis, different patterns called haplotypes are produced and used to define specific populations known as haplogroups. In our studies, we have explored the HV haplotype to identify individuals belonging to the HV haplogroup that is believed to have stemmed from the Middle East/Western Europe region 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. The HV haplotype is defined by a sequence change at the diagnostic SNP (rCRS C14766C) from CTAA to TTAA.  Presence of the TTAA sequence (recognized by the MseI restriction enzyme) indicates a positive HV haplotype. The CTAA sequence indicates a negative HV haplotype.  mtDNA obtained by cheek swab and primers were used to amplify this SNP region by PCR followed by digestion with MseI and electrophoresis. The positive HV haplotype has been identified and we are continuing to test additional mtDNA samples and explore additional haplotypes.  We are aiming to build a database of mtDNA samples that have been tested for the HV and other haplotypes to contribute to major haplotype collection databases.  Since understanding how mtDNA variations are distributed is also important in mtDNA-associated disease studies, results of our research can help track transmission of certain genetic disorders and diseases throughout human populations giving a better understanding of how people are susceptible to certain disorders, and lead to better prevention and/or gene therapy techniques.

About Me

B.S. Biology/Chemistry
The University of West Alabama

M.C.S Biology/Chemistry
Mississippi College

Ph.D. Biochemistry
The University of Mississippi Medical Center

Postdoctoral Studies
Department of Biochemistry
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior
The University of Mississippi Medical Center

Class Schedule

Spring 2014

  • BIO403-1 - Vertebrate Histology Lab
    T, 1:30pm -4:30pm, MSB209
  • BIO403-2 - Vertebrate Histology Lab
    W, 1:30pm -4:30pm, MSB209
  • BIO403-A - Vertebrate Histology
    1:30 pm - 3:30 pm M , 8:00 am - 9:15 am TR , MSB210
  • BIO5403-1 - Vertebrate Histology Lab
    T, 1:30pm - 4:30pm , MSB209
  • BIO 5403-2 - Vertebrate Histology Lab
    W, 1:30pm -4:30pm, MSB209
  • BIO5403-Z - Vertebrate Histology
    1:30 pm - 3:30 pm M, 8:00 am - 9:15 am TR, MSB210
  • BIO 442-B - ST: Biology Research
  • BIO 443-B - ST: Biology Research I
  • BIO 451-A - ISR: Biology Research
  • BIO 443-C - ST: Biology Research II
  • BIO 445-B - ISR: Eukaryotic Cell Physiology
    TBA, TBA, MSB221-HS201-HS202
  • BIO 6461-Z - ISR: Biology Research II
  • BIO 6462-Y - ISR: Biology Research III
  • BIO 6462-X - ISR:Biology Research
  • BIO 6460-X - ISR: Biology Research I
  • BIO 6545-Y - ISR: Eukaryotic Cell Physiology
    TBA, TBA, MSB221-HS201-HS202
  • BIO 6305-Z - Cell Physiology
    MW, 11:00-11:50, H100
  • BIO 431-B - Undergraduate Seminar
    R, 12:00-1:15, H100



Letter of Rec Forms Documents

Spring 2014 Off-campus Researcher Documents