Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2023

Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Title

May 1


Whittier Scholars Program

First Advisor

Dr. Jenny Link


Potassium Cyanide is a highly toxic chemical asphyxiant that interferes with the body's ability to use oxygen, typically by directly affecting the body by ingestion, inhalation, skin contact, or eye contact(CDC, 2011). Due to its high toxicity, the main effect that leads to the downfall of the organism begins with the cessation of aerobic metabolism; it does this by cyanide binding to the ferric ions and inhibiting cytochrome oxidase within the mitochondria (Zhang, 2015). There are no physical dangers the substance causes. Although, there are many chemical dangers. If used at temperatures higher than 70℉ The substance may produce toxic gasses such as hydrogen cyanide that create toxic hazards. Due to its toxic nature, a variability of temperature was not a good idea for our project considering it would be toxic for us and predictably kill all the Tetrahymena(Ware, 2020). Which is a reason we decided to use it when testing phagocytosis. My partner and I first decided on using potassium cyanide because of the research we found showing oxygen defects in uni- and multicellular organisms(Pham, 2007). Although there was one major issue, the compound was so toxic it would have killed our organisms prior to experimentation. Our resolution was finding a less toxic compound and potassium ferricyanide was that compound(Ware, 2020).. Using a compound lower in toxicity would allow us to create an experiment where we could test our hypothesis and test it at different ranges we had set for our project. The three factors we were testing are all related to cellular respiration, their ability to phagocytose is directly related to respiration, so therefore a good method to experiment on further( Skriver, 2009).Those ranges were testing how Tetrahymena would tolerate the compound. Knowing that potassium ferricyanide inhibits cellular respiration, which would cause a cascade effect on Tetrahymena in terms of their viability, motility, and ability to phagocytose. For our experiment, our goal was to find any change in the rate of phagocytosis, cell motility, and cell viability at different concentrations of potassium ferricyanide. It is vital since all of these factors require respiration to function properly. It will allow us to find out how each factor will affect the Tetrahymena. If future experimentations occurred, an insightful factor to add would be to test how all these factors affected the lifespan of Tetrahymena if treated with microdoses in comparison to those not treated with the drug.