Think Bomb

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Socialization and Genetic Expression of Aggression in Danio Rerio (zebrafish)

This Blue Monday I spoke with Holly Paddock from Dr. Barrie Robison’s behavioral genetics laboratory. She is studying socialization effects on zebrafish aggression.

For the socialization aspect of the experiment, zebrafish that have been determined to be non aggressive are placed in tanks next to aggressive fish.

"We put the aggressive fish with the non-aggressive to see if the non aggressive will change," explains Holly.

The zebrafish are determined to be aggressive or not by their genetic strain (tm1) and also by observation of their behavior through mirror tests and a dyad test.

"A dyad test is where you put two fish together in a tank and it's like, 'round one, fight!'"

After the socialization aspects of the experiment are determined, Holly hopes to move on to explore gene expression.

"We can get two papers out of this one," says Holly, one on the behavioral aspects of the research and one on the genetics.

Holly hopes to see a change in genetic expression of the non-aggressive strain after socialization makes them more aggressive, if they do show increased aggression.

When I asked Holly how she's going to measure their genetic expression, she explained that they'd be using microarrays, a fascinating new technology in the field of genetic research. A microarray allows one to visualize thousands of genes at once by creating a gene chip. Probes of the genetic material are attached to the chip creating patterns of small dots, each dot corresponding to a probe. Here is an image sample of four microarrays from research on halobacteria (unfortunately, little microarray data exists for zebrafish at this point):


"I'm gonna have to kill the fish to retrieve the genetic material," says Holly, "but I figure it's ok, seems how all the fish I've ever tried to keep as pets have died anyway."

The Drink!:
Holly is drinking a Vibrator, which includes orange and raspberry vodka (1/3) mixed into orange and cranberry juice (2/3).


Image source:
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2004/10sep_radmicrobe.htm

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