Current Position (2018/19):
- Post PhD: MBBS Year 5 - Life Cycle
Assigning Behavioural and Neurodevelopmental Functions to Autism-associated Genes
Dr Jason Rihel, Cell & Developmental Biology
Description of Project:
Recent multi-genome comparisons, such as genome-wide association studies and whole exome sequencing, suggest a large number of genes that may play causative roles in human neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. In order to study the function of these candidate genes we aim to utilise existing, as well as generating our own, zebrafish mutants. Zebrafish are well suited to this purpose owing to their high degree of both; genetic homology and tractability and, anatomical and molecular brain similarity. Additionally zebrafish larvae display complex behaviours including sleep/wake, hunting and social preference early in development. Genes were selected for mutant generation based on both their strong association to autism and clear homology to zebrafish genes. We aim to characterise mutants neuroanatomically, subject them to a battery of established quantitative behavioural assays, and then identify compounds that rescue mutant phenotypes through targeted in vivo drug screening. Through this approach we hope to assign behavioural and brain developmental functions to genes which are putatively of medical interest and describe novel phenotypic suppressors.