Identification of glial marker genes in the developing enteric nervous system

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Clark, Kendra
Trautmiller, Megan
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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.

Genetics, Development and Cell Biology

The enteric nervous system (ENS) consists of neurons and glia that control motility, secretions, and blood flow within the gastrointestinal tract. Using the zebrafish, Danio rerio, as a model we aim to understand ENS development and how this process might go array in disorders such as Hirschsprung’s, in which children are born lacking neurons in portions of their gastrointestinal tract. The number of markers for enteric glia is relatively small and many of the current immunohistochemical approaches are confounded by the uncertainty of cross-reactivity patterns between species. In preliminary experiments using established glia markers, we obtained unexpected results identifying glia in mutants lacking the ENS, suggesting a lack of glia marker specificity, or the presence of an uncharacterized subpopulation of glia in our mutants. To distinguish between these possibilities, we have cloned other markers to examine glia populations in normal larvae and larvae with defects in ENS development.