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2020 Project Proposal

Quantification of oxytocin receptors on GABAergic interneurons in the mouse VTA

Bojana  Zupan (Psychological Science)

The mouse model of Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), the largest single-gene cause of autism, recapitulates many autism-related behaviors including abnormal sociability, a core symptom of many neurodevelopmental disorders. Our lab has shown, however, that genetically unaffected mice derived from fmr1-deficient females also show behavioral abnormalities, specifically increased sociability, suggesting that reduction in maternal fmr1 expression has an intergenerational programming effect on offspring neurodevelopment. Sociability is modulated in part by oxytocinergic (OXTergic) signaling in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), and while intranasal OXT increases social approach in control mice, those programmed by maternal fmr1 deficiency show reduced social approach following OXT administration. Reduced sensitivity to OXT may be due in part to altered expression of OXT receptors (OXTRs) in the VTA, which are found on both dopaminergic and GABAergic neurons. As our previous data suggests no differences in OXTR expression on dopaminergic neurons, this project will assess OXT receptor expression levels specifically on GABAergic interneurons of the VTA using an already established protocol for fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH). This project will involve animal handling and sample processing (wet lab), confocal microscopy, and image analysis (ImageJ).

Previous rodent handling and research experience as well as successful completion of Research Methods in Physiological Psychology preferred.

How should students express interest in this project?
Please describe in your application any research interest and/or experience you feel may be relevant to this project. Please do not email Prof. Zupan prior to submitting the application. Students will be contacted for interviews once all applications are submitted.

This is a 10 week project running from May 27-July 31