Meet the Researcher - Abreanne Andlinger

Breakout Room: 5

Researcher Name: Abreanne Andlinger
Title of Research: Examining Essential Transcription Factor Networks for Neurodevelopment in Zebrafish
Division Representing: Biology
Institution: West Virginia University
Institution Location: West Virginia
Home State: West Virginia
District Number: 1
Advisor/Mentor: Sadie Bergeron
Funding Source: The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation

Research Experience: 
I have been doing undergraduate research for about 3 years in a neurodevelopment lab using zebrafish to investigate gene networks. For this research, I am investigating the relationship between the genes dlx5a/6a and the transcription factors Gsx1/2. Through this research, I have learned how to do various lab techniques such as microinjections, in situ hybridization, zebrafish husbandry, polymerase chain reactions, gel electrophoresis, data collection and analysis, and mounting and imaging zebrafish samples using light, fluorescence, compound, and dissecting microscopy. I will also be trained on RT-qPCR. I have also become better at presenting my research to those in my field as well as to those who do not have a strong background in science.Before I got into undergraduate research I had worked jobs at various grocery stores and restaurants to save up money to support myself. I worked hard at these businesses and developed the strong work ethic and perseverance I have today. Working at the jobs also developed my people skills and made me more confident when speaking to others.

Presentation Experience: 
I have presented at the WVU Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium in both 2019 and 2020 where my research was presented to students who were not familiar with science as well as those who did have a strong background in science. I will also be presenting my research at Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol this year where I will get to present my research to West Virginia state legislators.

Significance of Research: 
Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia result from mutations in and dysregulated expression of genes that control neurodevelopment. Many of these genes encode transcription factors that regulate large gene networks causing an increase or decrease in targeted gene expression. Fully understanding these networks could lead to the development of more targeted treatments to alleviate the negative symptoms of NDD. Research shows the transcription factor Genomic Screen Homeobox1 (Gsx1) contributes to the development of neurons involved in hearing and sight and Gsx1 function can overlap with the closely related transcription factor Gsx2. Sensory processing disruptions frequently co-occur with NDD. We generated zebrafish mutants for gsx1 and gsx2 to elucidate the gene networks these transcription factors regulate and their role in the development of sensory processing neural circuits. 70% of human genes have zebrafish orthologues, thus our findings in this model system might shed light on the way Gsx1 and Gsx2 contribute to neurodevelopment in humans. Distal-less homeobox 5 and 6 (dlx5/6) are associated with ASD, and dlx6 is involved in the development of the brain and face. We hypothesize that Gsx1/2 regulates the expression of dlx5a/6a. To test this hypothesis, we used in situ hybridization to detect dlx5a/6a mRNA expression in the embryonic zebrafish brain of our gsx1 and gsx2 mutants. Thus far, we can conclude that Gsx1/2 regulates the expression of dlx5a in the embryonic zebrafish brain. Future work will investigate other genes possibly regulated by Gsx1/2, such as dlx6a, that are involved with NDD and sensory processing. 

Uniqueness of Research: 
Investigating the relationship between the transcription factors Genomic screen homeobox 1 and 2 and the genes distal-less homeobox 5a and 6a in zebrafish could lead to a better understanding of how this gene network functions during human brain development.


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