Understanding the Function of OPTN Gene in Neurons using TALEN Facilitated Mutagenesis

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Manning, Alicia
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Genetics, Development and Cell Biology

The Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology seeks to teach subcellular and cellular processes, genome dynamics, cell structure and function, and molecular mechanisms of development, in so doing offering a Major in Biology and a Major in Genetics.

The Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology was founded in 2005.

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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.

The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a well-known neurodegenerative disease caused by motor neuron death within the spinal cord and brain. Soon after the nerve cells die, the patient’s muscle cells degenerate resulting in paralysis and eventually death. Another debilitating human disease is primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). POAG is an ocular disease triggered by the rise in internal eye pressure which damages the optic nerve, reducing image signals to the brain. Most cases of ALS are sporadic and the direct causes for the increase of internal eye pressure are questionable, meaning that a clear genetic and molecular understanding of the mechanisms leading to the diseases is not well understood. The gene optineurin (OPTN) has been identified and implicated as a contributor to the mechanisms leading to the onset of both of these diseases. To gain a better understanding of the cellular functions of OPTN, we are using TAL-effector nuclease (TALEN) facilitated mutagenesis. The TALEN specific for the OPTN gene in zebrafish has been generated, injected, and has produced mutations. The mutations are being characterized for their consequences on zebrafish eyes and motor neurons to hopefully allow us to create new zebrafish models for ALS and glaucoma.

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