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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Integrative Physiology (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology

Advisor 1

Qing-Hui Chen

Advisor 2

Zhiying Shan

Committee Member 1

Stephen Techtmann

Committee Member 2

Tarun Dam


A majority of American adults are diagnosed with one or more chronic diseases. Lifestyle choices such as diet, physical activity/ inactivity, and substance abuse play vital roles in the development and maintenance of several pathologies including hypertension and obesity. With clear evidence of correlations between lifestyle choices and hypertension, underlying mechanisms remain unclear.

Chronic high consumption of alcohol increases the risk of hypertension and other diseases. Here a potential role of acetate, a bioactive molecule produced as a result of alcohol metabolism, in driving augmented NMDA receptor-mediated sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) is presented. Elevated SNA is characteristic of some chronic diseases such as hypertension, congestive heart failure, and diabetes. Unmasking mechanisms in which neurogenic hypertension develops, along with the potential role of alcohol consumption and metabolism will lead to better target-based therapeutics for the treatment of alcohol related diseases.

In addition to alcohol consumption, lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise also play a pivotal role in maintaining health. The data demonstrates the impacts of a high salt diet or moderate aerobic exercise training on the gut microbiome of SD rats. Also, a more optimal sampling unit for microbiome analysis to make associations between healthy and diseased states is proposed. Diet and exercise were independently able to significantly change microbial community composition. These changes were seen in colon mucosa-associated communities however exercise wasn't able to significantly alter microbial community composition in the small intestine or fecal samples. These data suggest a need to not only better understand mucosa-associated microbial communities but also to develop more efficient testing strategies to characterize the gut microbiome and determine its role in health and disease development.