Presentation Title

Genetic and Molecular Basis of Social Behavior

Faculty Mentor

Philip Washbourne

Start Date

23-11-2019 8:45 AM

End Date

23-11-2019 9:30 AM

Location

202

Session

poster 2

Type of Presentation

Poster

Subject Area

interdisciplinary

Abstract

Humans are social animals, yet, not much is known about the underlying mechanisms involved in social behavior, such as the genes and neurons involved. Understanding these mechanisms will shed light on social deficits in disorders like autism. To investigate the genetic and molecular basis of social behavior, the zebrafish model was used since they are highly social vertebrates and are genetically similar to humans. The goals of the present study are two-fold. Firstly, we examined neurons in the ventral telencephalon (vTel), which is shown to be important in modulating social behavior in zebrafish. The population of neurons in the vTel are both GABAergic and cholinergic, which is consistent with mammals. In rodents, the transcription factors (TFs) lhx8 (lhx8a in zebrafish) and lhx6 combinatory expression specify GABAergic neurons, while the TFs lhx8 and islet1 combinatorial expression specify cholinergic neurons. We hypothesize that all three TFs must be expressed at the same timepoint to allow the specification of these neurons for both GABA and acetylcholine. By staining these neurons, the results showed that all three TFs are expressed prior to the neurotransmitters, indicating that the TFs are required for the specification of these neurons. Furthermore, mutating lhx8a led to more social behavior when compared to wildtype zebrafish. The next step would be to determine the neurotransmitter phenotype of these neurons. Secondly, to determine what other genes are involved in social behavior we used a forward genetic screen. By generating random mutations in zebrafish, we were able to test for an asocial phenotype, which we analyzed using automated computer tracking, allowing us to identify novel genes that are required for normal social behavior. These results will allow us to have a better understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of social behavior.

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Nov 23rd, 8:45 AM Nov 23rd, 9:30 AM

Genetic and Molecular Basis of Social Behavior

202

Humans are social animals, yet, not much is known about the underlying mechanisms involved in social behavior, such as the genes and neurons involved. Understanding these mechanisms will shed light on social deficits in disorders like autism. To investigate the genetic and molecular basis of social behavior, the zebrafish model was used since they are highly social vertebrates and are genetically similar to humans. The goals of the present study are two-fold. Firstly, we examined neurons in the ventral telencephalon (vTel), which is shown to be important in modulating social behavior in zebrafish. The population of neurons in the vTel are both GABAergic and cholinergic, which is consistent with mammals. In rodents, the transcription factors (TFs) lhx8 (lhx8a in zebrafish) and lhx6 combinatory expression specify GABAergic neurons, while the TFs lhx8 and islet1 combinatorial expression specify cholinergic neurons. We hypothesize that all three TFs must be expressed at the same timepoint to allow the specification of these neurons for both GABA and acetylcholine. By staining these neurons, the results showed that all three TFs are expressed prior to the neurotransmitters, indicating that the TFs are required for the specification of these neurons. Furthermore, mutating lhx8a led to more social behavior when compared to wildtype zebrafish. The next step would be to determine the neurotransmitter phenotype of these neurons. Secondly, to determine what other genes are involved in social behavior we used a forward genetic screen. By generating random mutations in zebrafish, we were able to test for an asocial phenotype, which we analyzed using automated computer tracking, allowing us to identify novel genes that are required for normal social behavior. These results will allow us to have a better understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of social behavior.