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Zebrafish enable scientists to study the migration of neurons that enable sexual maturity
Date:6/5/2008

testes to produce testosterone and sperm. But first, GnRH neurons must get to the brain. "This occurs very early in the life of a zebrafish, probably after the heart forms, at about 48 to 72 hours of life," says Dr. Kozlowski. "One class of patients Dr. Layman sees has Kallmann syndrome in which there is evidence that the GnRH neurons gets stuck about halfway. People want to know the molecular mechanism that allows these neurons to find the right place." Dr. Kozlowski is principal investigator on a new $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that should help.

The zebrafish embryo, which is transparent and develops outside the mother, is ideal for studying early development. Dr. Kozlowski's lab, in collaboration with UCLA's Dr. Wayne, made a transgenic fish whose GnRH neurons turn fluorescent green at birth for easy tracking. "We can put them under the microscope and image them for as long as it takes for these cells to get from point A to point B and ask how they got there," says Dr. Kozlowski. "Do they go straight there or take the long way? Then we can start asking questions about the signals that direct them and dissect out the genes expressed along the route which may function as road signs."

In live embryos, researchers are watching GnRH neurons as they first appear near the developing nose, then migrate with nearby olfactory neurons. "People actually think they use these olfactory neurons as the highway, which makes sense," says Dr. Kozlowski. "They are already there and moving to the brain. Why not follow the yellow brick road?" In fact, some patients with Kallmann syndrome, who have delayed puberty, also have impaired or no ability to smell, indications both neuron types may get off route.

Dr. Wayne uses tiny recording pipettes to measure the GnRH neuron's electrical activity as they travel. In cell culture systems at least, there is a known relationship between electrical activity in these neurons and thei
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert  

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