IRES Track 1: US-Japan study of novel genetic elements regulating seasonal behavior of medaka fish.

Project Details


This IRES project involves a collaboration between Montclair State University (MSU) and three partners in Japan: the National Institute of Genetics (NIG); the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM) at Nagoya University; and the National Institute of Basic Biology (NIBB). The overarching goal of the project is to provide a rich international research experience for STEM students with the expectation that it will serve as a foundation for them to engage in the global scientific community. The mentors at these three institutes are world-renowned for their expertise on genetic and behavioral studies using medaka and have state-of-the-art facilities to support this research. The specific aims are to have students utilize cutting-edge gene editing techniques as they learn about the role of genes in behavioral sciences, improve their communication, teamwork, and cross-cultural skills, and contribute to a publication in a scientific peer-reviewed journal. The project will engage a total of 18 U.S. graduate and upper-class undergraduate students over three years. Students will be recruited nationally, with special consideration for the inclusion of students who typically do not have access to such research experiences. Each cohort of six students will participate in pre-program workshops on research techniques, cultural and language lessons, and professional development for two weeks before their eight-week research experience. Through its active recruitment of underrepresented students, the project will provide rich opportunities for students who typically overlook such experiences while at the same time contributing to the diversification of the scientific community at the global level.

Each Japanese Institute will host a pair of U.S. students, who will work within existing teams to study seasonal, physiological, and behavioral processes using Japanese medaka fish (Oryzias latipes) as a model organism. The scientific objective of their work will be to determine the molecular mechanisms involved in behavioral adaptations of animals to environmental changes. Each team will be using state-of-the-art CRISPR-Cas9 DNA editing techniques. The students at ITbM and NIBB will be working to characterize and elucidate the function of selected genetic elements and their contributions to behavioral and seasonal changes. These genetic elements, that have been identified through a global screening, have been found to be differentially expressed in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland of medaka fish during long- and short-day conditions. The research focus of the two students at NIG will be to generate and characterize mutant fish either lacking the expression of a gene termed cAMP Responsive Element Modulator (CREM) or lacking the expression of a unique isoform of the CREM gene termed Inducible cAMP Early Repressor (ICER). CREM belongs to a family of CRE-binding genes that code for activators and repressors of transcription. Most activators and repressors of the CREM gene have similar and redundant functions with other genes like CREB and ATF. ICER, however, is unique among the products of other CRE-binding genes because it is an inducible and dominant transcriptional repressor. CREM has been found to be involved in many physiological processes but the precise contribution of ICER has not been elucidated. After the initial year, the two students working at NIG will be joining the efforts on studying other genes or genetic elements of the group of possible targets identified by the ITbM and NIBB researchers. This three-year research project has the potential to inform new practices in industries that are sensitive to environmental changes such as farming, agriculture, and aquaculture. More generally, the research will add to the body of literature on the interactions between genes and behavior.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date1/09/2031/08/23


  • National Science Foundation: $300,000.00


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