The Conte Center Molecular Neuroanatomy Core (MNC) will provide high quality neuroanatomical services for both qualitative and quantitative observations of gene and protein expression, cell counts, and basic measures of regional morphometry. The core will support the research efforts of the Vanderbilt Conte Center for Basic Neuroscience by providing a number of key services, including: 1) housing of a reference library collection of wild type brain sections for more rapid optimization of staining protocols for in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry;2) generation of comparative mutant and wild type series of stained material based on needs of each investigator for localization of specific proteins and transcripts;3) basic histological staining of wild type and mutant mouse brain material for initial analysis of brain structure;4) Microbrightfield-based computer-assisted basic quantitative morphometry and assorted measures that include signal intensity measures, cell counts based on stereological techniques, area fraction measures of regional serotonin innervation. The quantitative morphometric analyses will be done for investigators as pilot projects to determine the extent of more detailed studies needed. The analytical data provided by the core will assist in the design of detailed analyses by Conte investigators. The core will provide assistance for investigator laboratories to learn how to use morphometric analysis tools on exported datasets using local workstations. The MNC has the capacity to section between 300-400 brains annually, and performing immunocytochemistry or in situ hybridization on a subset of sections from an equivalent number of brains Core leadership and personnel have substantial experience utilizing neuroanatomical methods for examining gene and protein expression and analytical methods.
The research supported by the Molecular Neuroanatomy Core relates to a growing body of evidence that developmental alterations of processes that impact serotonin function during development may lead to a lifetime of chronic mental health problems, including anxiety disorders, learning and emotional disabilities and depression. The Core's activities are vital in understanding the spatial alterations in gene and protein expression as well as morphological changes that arise with perturbations on developmental 5-HT signaling.
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