Using zebrafish as our model organism, our current work focuses on the role NR1 in brain development and behavior. We use molecular, and genetic approaches to examine the complex changes that occur in the composition of this protein during brain development. We are also examining how perturbing the normal function of this protein during development and in the adult influences zebrafish development.
We have also undertaken a long-term project that uses a quantitative genetic approach to identify other genetic components that interact with the NMDA receptor to influence behavior.
Zebrafish have a number of advantages for this kind of work. They are small and easily cared for, so large colonies can be maintained. They produce large numbers of externally fertilized eggs and the embryos are transparent, making experimental manipulation and observation relatively straightforward. They are also amenable to microinjection techniques allowing us to genetically manipulation the expression of specific genes. Finally, because they are vertebrates and have been shown too posses NMDA receptor genes similar to those found in humans, the work we do in this model system should tell us something about the gene networks involved in human behavior.