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North Dakota IDeA Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE)

Research in Functional Genomics of endocrine disruption.

Primary investigator: Dr. Chris Beachy

Research Summary:
Dr. Christopher Beachy , Professor of Biology, is examining how the ecology, complemented with functional genomics of endocrine disruption in salamanders will allow development of an amphibian endocrine disruptor bioassay system that can be used in human environmental health policy. Dr. Beachy's research currently supports undergraduate research through the Amphibian Growth Lab (AGP) at Minot State University. The Amphibian Growth Lab is currently studying the effects of Endocrine Disruptors (ED's) on the growth and development of Ambystomatid (Mole) salamanders. Current species of study include Ambystoma mexicanum (the Axolotyl), Ambystoma maculatum (the spotted salamander) and the only ambystomatid salamander endemic to North Dakota, Ambystoma tigrinum (the tiger salamander). Current research on ED's in the AGP will include an analysis of gene chip functional expression in cooperation with the Salamander Genome Project located at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Beachy's research also includes field studies on salamanders which support the Amphibian Applied Field Ecology Lab (AAFEL). Current studies include long term drift fence studies at two wetland sites in North Dakota and on-going minnow trap surveys to determine growth and life history of tiger salamanders in the wilds of North Dakota. Genetic material from wild populations will be sent to the Salamander Genome Project to assist in the phylogenetic analysis of the Ambystoma tigrinum complex in North America. Additionally, field populations will be surveyed for exposure to chytrid fungus a water-bourn fungus thought to play a key role in amphibian declines.

The two pronged (lab and field) strategy of amphibian research at MSU will allow for a comprehensive investigation of the complex interactions of ED's and their effects on a model developmental/genomic organism. This type of research program allows for experimental investigations that are directly linked to ecological and anthropogenic concerns. In particular it will increase the knowledge of the mechanisms for global amphibian declines while shedding light on the mechanics of ED's in the biology of the model organism and ultimately human health.

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